The opening of the W Hotel heralds the transformation of a London landmark

Reclaiming Leicester Square: the revamp of London's entertainment hub begins
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Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

1 / 14 Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

2 / 14 Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

3 / 14 Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Entrance lobby, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

4 / 14 Entrance lobby, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Guest room, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

5 / 14 Guest room, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Wyld Club, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

6 / 14 Wyld Club, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

7 / 14 Jason Bruges, exterior façade, W Hotel (2011), Leicester Square, London, UK

Exterior, St John Hotel (2011), Chinatown, London, UK

8 / 14 Exterior, St John Hotel (2011), Chinatown, London, UK

Guest Room, St John Hotel (2011), Chinatown, London, UK

9 / 14 Guest Room, St John Hotel (2011), Chinatown, London, UK

Guest Room, St John Hotel (2011), Chinatown, London, UK

10 / 14 Guest Room, St John Hotel (2011), Chinatown, London, UK

Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Irving Street proposed regeneration (2011), London

11 / 14 Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Irving Street proposed regeneration (2011), London

Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Leicester Square Gardens proposed regeneration (2011), London,

12 / 14 Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Leicester Square Gardens proposed regeneration (2011), London,

Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Leicester Square North Terrace proposed regeneration (2011)

13 / 14 Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Leicester Square North Terrace proposed regeneration (2011)

Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Leicester Square Gardens proposed regeneration (2011), London

14 / 14 Burns + Nice for Westminster Council, Leicester Square Gardens proposed regeneration (2011), London


A 1925 guide to London describes Leicester Square as a place where “the life of London burns at its highest pressure and restless activity reigns.” This seductive account of the UK capital’s symbolic home of film is exactly what the W London Hotel (which opens today) is designed to make you feel in this flagship hotel - one of several new developments marking a distinct shift in this quarter of the city.

Located on the site of the former Swiss Centre building, a key corner of the Leicester Square site, the building is set to become a new landmark. Dressed almost entirely in translucent glass it features a stunning façade light installation by interactive designer Jason Bruges that constantly shifts colours, echoing the kinetic energy of its immediate surrounds. A response to context is further explored in the interiors, with the decor and facilities said to represent the ‘duality of British Culture - Savile Row meets Soho.’ 

The arrival of W London will be shortly followed by the opening of the St. John Hotel later this month in neighbouring Chinatown. Chef Fergus Henderson and business partner Trevor Gulliver, from the iconic London restaurant St. John of the same name which first opened in Spitalfields in 1994, have taken over the former Manzi’s restaurant and hotel which was one of the last and long established “theatre” restaurants in the West End. The site is being completely refurbished and will include a St John restaurant and first floor bar as well as 16 bedrooms, including a two-bedroom top floor suite - a bolthole for after a West End show.

The hotel openings come at a significant moment in the transformation of this part of London. Alongside the new enterprises is a strategy spearheaded by the local city council for enhancing perceptions and visitor experience in the area. The strategy has involved huge investment in the public realm with adjacent street widening, de-cluttering and now a total refurbishment of the square itself with a design by landscape architects Burns + Nice.

Robert Davis, Westminster City Council's Deputy Leader, says: “The square has long been the home of London's entertainment industry, and we want the way it looks and feels to be in keeping with the world class calibre of events held there. It will become a place that people and their families can come and sit, relax and take in the atmosphere. The revamp will mean that, come 2012, when the eyes of the world will be on us during the Olympics, it will be a showcase for the whole country."

The plans include new contemporary granite paving for the Square, gardens and side streets; new state-of-the-art functional and decorative lighting; a striking new building to replace the existing ticket booth; contemporary planting and new bronze railings and gates to create a new look for the gardens; and incorporating improved signage as part of the Legible London way finding scheme. The hope is to reclaim this part of London as a world class destination for tourists, the film industry and local residents and businesses.

 

Mike Althorpe is a member of Black Country Atelier


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