Murray Hotel, Hong Kong
The Murray Hotel, a former government headquarters, has been re-imagined and designed by Foster + Partners, a British architectural design and engineering firm with extensive experience in conservation works worldwide. The Murray, converted from the previously known Murray Building, is one of several historic landmarks under the Conserving Central Initiative Project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the HKSAR.
The 27-storey building, originally designed by architect Ron Phillips almost 50 years ago, re-opened in March 2018 as a 336-room luxury hotel with panoramic views over the city’s Central Business District. Owned by Niccolo Hotels’ The Murray will operate under a new luxury brand Wharf Hotels, which manages 15 properties in Hong Kong, China and the Philippines.
The building was originally designed to cope with the climate of Hong Kong with recessed windows, carefully orientated to avoid the harsh tropical sunlight. The new design retains the façade while upgrading other aspects of the building and extending the life of the building by introducing new functions appropriate for the changing demands of the city.
The building was designed at a time when the city was planned around the car and is surrounded by roads, making it impermeable for pedestrians. The hotel design involves a new street frontage on Garden Road, new ground floor spaces, and enhancing and extending landscaped grounds which incorporate a public tai chi area. A large heritage listed rainbow shadow tree rises up through the podium, shading the outdoor dining area and creating a centrepiece for gardens which offer a number of routes and spaces across and into the site.
Ron Phillips was working in Hong Kong’s Architectural Services Department in 1969 when he was tasked with designing the original office building, Now aged 90, and living in retirement in Britain, he was invited by Foster + Partners in 2013 to consult on its conversion. Phillips, who lived and worked in Hong Kong from 1956 to 1969, had earlier been involved in the design of Hong Kong City Hall, together with fellow modernist architect Alan Fitch.
The principle of Phillips design combined the supporting structure and facade as one element formed by way of fins which were oriented on each face of the building to prevent direct sunlight entering. Colin Ward of Foster + Partners, regards this as a pioneering example of sustainable architecture in Hong Kong that was way ahead of its time. During the four years of planning, Phillips visited the London office of Foster + Partners many times and has been described as “an incredibly positive influence on the project and also a complete source of information and history”, Ward says.
Phillips insights also informed the conversion, which was designed within the confines of a heritage overlay that required, for instance, that the building’s height not be altered, and original features such as the arches and vehicle ramps be retained.
The Murray has a total of 336 rooms and suites across located between the fifth and 23rd floors. Rooms are divided into three categories – Deluxe, Grand and Grand Deluxe – while suites are in six categories. More than 75 per cent of the rooms are 50sqm or above, considered a quite generous size for a Hong Kong hotel.
Owned by Niccolo Hotels’ The Murray will operate under a new luxury brand Wharf Hotels, which manages 15 properties in Hong Kong, China and the Philippines.