In what could only be described as pared-back opulence, David Chipperfield Architects have taken a Regent Street icon in London’s Piccadilly Circus and reinvented it for the new era. Hotel Café Royal is a sort of Cinderella (post pumpkin transformation) meets Scandinavian design. The hotel has a rich history, and not just architecturally speaking. For the last 150 years, it’s been known for it’s glamorous, infamous and just plain old famous clientele. It has hosted the likes of Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Noel Coward, Winston Churchill, Bridget Bardot and David Bowie. Between 2008 and 2012, David Chipperfield Architects have taken three historic buildings and restored it into a luxury hotel with public spaces – bars, restaurants, and a café – arranged across the ground, first, and second floors. 160 guest rooms and five luxury suites occupy the five floors above. Two basement levels house a state-of-the-art spa centred around an 18m swimming pool inspired by classical baths.
Working with restoration specialists Donald Insall Associates, the design team developed an unobtrusive approach to the existing fabric, giving rise to a new strategy that worked closely with the present architecture. This approach allowed them to integrate new and old using a reinterpretation of historical materials, decorative features, and colour palettes in the new areas. A wide range of materials have been used in the new hotel, to align with the function of rooms and complement the building’s history. For example, like the historic lobby, the ground floor café also uses Giallo Sienna marble although applied in a different language. Next door to the café, the Art Deco Ten Room has been reinstated with its original mezzanine to house the hotel’s main restaurant. Completing the ground floor, a series of oak-lined spaces connect the historic lobby and the fully restored Grill Room. The first floor houses members’ facilities – lounges, private dining rooms, and meeting spaces, as well as a business centre. On the second floor, the fully restored Pompadour Suite serves as a banqueting hall, with a rich historical palette of ochre, amber, and gold.
The basement spa has been crafted from stacked precast concrete elements honed to a terrazzo finish and expressed as old-school post and lintel structures. The guestrooms use a palette of Carrara marble, Marmorino plasterwork, leather, and glass inspired by the rusticated façades of Regent Street; the suites combine tradition and contemporary style using a range of historic fabric and colours with new forms. Although utterly luxurious, there is nothing over the top or screaming for attention at this refined space. Instead, Hotel Café Royal feels easy on the eye, comfortable and approachable. No doubt the ‘new’ visiting famous clientele wholeheartedly agree.