Now looming over Victoria Harbour is New World Development’s (NWD) art-forward Victoria Dockside. Dubbed a “global art and design district” by NWD, it’s less a district than a super-complex that rolls arts and culture, hospitality and office space into one monolith positioned as the future of Hong Kong’s harbourfront. Following the launch of K11 Atelier and the redesigned Avenue of Stars, the next step was unveiling the SAR’s newest luxury hotel: Rosewood Hong Kong, NWD’s flagship home property in its chain, which includes the Carlyle in New York and the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.

The Vertical Estate

Unveiled on March 18, Rosewood Hong Kong sits on the site of the old New World Centre, which at the turn of the 20th century was Holt’s Wharf, a shipping hub that went a long way to putting Hong Kong on the map as a business centre. The Kowloon-Canton Railway terminus was at the clock tower making the tip of Tsim Sha Tsui one of the city’s more historically significant locations. Rosewood Hong Kong pays tribute to that history in its design.

Requiring seven years to complete gave architects Kohn Pedersen Fox plenty of time to come up with a modern concept for the 65-storey tower that married Hong Kong’s verticality with the location’s legacy and waterfront location. The tower’s bronze, stone and glass façade is only one part of the whole, which stands apart from the structural irregularity and undulating lines of the rest of Victoria Dockside.

The stone and bronze also recalls a continental sophistication that is entirely intentional. “This is an estate. It was never meant to be a hotel. So what would the estate become if it were to become public?” begins Tony Chi of tonychi studio, who provided the hotel’s interiors. “The [NWD owners] Chengs grew up here, so we reversed it, and built an estate first and turned it into a hotel.” Tall windows and doors, rich woods and fabrics, leather, fine metals, gardens, art and meticulous tiling are among the materials and touches that Chi used to create a family estate vibe that hotel guests would be able to sink into. With over 400 rooms and suites spanning 43 floors, the key to a successful estate would be intimacy, so Chi started by wondering, “How do I make a big hotel feel small?”

In the Details

“Saying a sense of place is easy, but what does it mean? The world is such that you can have menu A in New York and you can have it Hong Kong. How do you make the difference?” Chi asks, referring to Rosewood’s defining “Sense of Place” service philosophy. In design, it is by focusing on the details that draw on local heritage.

Rosewood Hong Kong welcomes guests with a rounded driveway and Henry Moore sculpture as its pivot, one of dozens of original artworks scattered throughout the property. There are two entry choices: the main hotel entry and the dedicated doorway to the Grand Ballroom function space, which beckons with its curving white staircase and solid rounded balustrade. Like he did in London with the vestibule at the front door, Chi reworked a conventional piece of residential architecture into an Instagram-worthy conversation piece for memory-making—the point of hospitality.

“What is the meaning of hospitality? That’s been with humanity for generation after generation. We come into the world learning how to be hospitable. You learn it at home, and then you learn it on the street. You take what you learn home with you. To this day hospitality is the backbone of our lives; watching people come into your domain and figuring out how you interact with them, how you do that on the street … The hotel is an urban environment,” argues Chi.

Hospitality in this case manifests in the finer points, such as jewel-like chandeliers in function and ballrooms that pay homage to a family history in jewellery and fondness for equestrian sports in The Legacy House, the hotel’s Cantonese restaurant, and again in the executive lounge, where leather and dark woods are the order of the day. Doorways are nearly double height—or they definitely feel that way—and wouldn’t be out of place in a European manor house. Silver horse sculptures serve as bag hooks in the casual function rooms, and bronze figures denote men’s and women’s restrooms. The idea of the hotel being a ‘home’ is most vivid in the function spaces, where open kitchens are incorporated into a library-style room, complete with display shelving for more art and warm wood underfoot.

Guestroom floor elevator bays are flattened to create a hushed salon on each floor where guests can mix and mingle be they acquainted or not. The idea was to forge a space that the family might have congregated in years ago when gathered together on the family estate. Also prominent in the hotel is vaguely Art Deco-style tilling and patterning (the wharf opened at the dawn of the Deco movement), which provides a subtle local contrast in the traditionally Asian motifs that grace the walls, ceilings and lighting.

Nonetheless, Chi feels Rosewood Hong Kong is far from complete design-wise. As a concept that is constantly shifting to meet new demands, responsive hotel design must stay on its toes. Chi likens good design to music. “My mother was a musician and once said you’re always looking for that perfect note,” he finishes. “This hotel isn’t ‘done’. I’m here today, and its design will evolve from this day forward.”