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27


BUILDING PROJECTS


MORPHEUS HOTEL MACAU


Playing with geometry


A new hotel in the south east Asian casino hotspot of Macau is a rare hospitality sector project for Zaha Hadid Architects, but a typically groundbreaking technical achievement for the practice. James Parker spoke to architect Viviana Muscettola about creating the world’s first free-form high-rise exoskeleton


M


acau has positioned itself as Asia’s most popular entertainment destination, and with over 32 million tourists visiting in 2017, chiefly for the resort’s casinos, it has a strong case. Development has sprung up in the 21st century to service this large market as China’s prosperity has increased, with pastiches of Las Vegas hotels that are themselves pastiches of European architecture, including The Venetian and The Parisian. As a result, the arrival of a landmark new building creating its own futuristic statement, rather than harking back to the past, is a striking shift for the Cotai Strip, the hotel district of Macao built on reclaimed land. The region is now connected to Hong Kong across the Pearl River estuary via a 34 mile long bridge – the world’s longest sea crossing. The new hotel, called Morpheus, is the fifth in a group of high-rise hotels within the City of Dreams integrated hotel/casino complex, run by client Melco Crown Entertainment. However it stands out as an ambitious and unique design statement built to bring a wider range of holidaymakers to Macao.


As the first hotel that Melco has operated as well as owned, CEO Lawrence Ho wanted a flagship building that “represented the company’s ambitions for the future,” project director at ZHA Viviana Muscettola tells ADF. Ho contacted Zaha Hadid herself in 2012 to see if she was interested in producing a concept.


Muscettola says the practice made it clear at the first meeting that they weren’t interested in creating another Las Vegas-style


hotel, and wanted instead to create a true ‘destination’: “We were completely aligned in the intention to create something which people would come to Macao specially to see.” Because of this, she says, “it had to reflect a new century design language.” The architects were given “quite a ‘brief’


brief,” essentially stating the minimum room requirements for what was a constrained site, and worked up a couple of concepts. The client opted to go for the more experimental option. Muscettola adds: “Ourselves and the client were a particularly good match, because Lawrence was as visionary as us in terms of wanting to design and build something for the future of Macao in general, for entertainment and hospitality.” Working initially from the London office, and then using its Hong Kong base and the skills of ZHA architect Bianca Cheung, Muscettola’s team arrived at a flamboyant and yet also efficient design solution.


Site & form


According to the project director, “from the beginning” (a favourite phrase of hers, illustrating the firm commitment to the design vision from client and architect), “one aspect we were sure about was that in contrast to the rest of City of Dreams, we wanted a continuous facade all the way to the ground.” Therefore rather than a traditional tower and podium, at ground level the building would give pedestrians a clear sense of the overall form, rather than have a visual disconnect between lower and upper stories.


ADF NOVEMBER 2018 WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK


FUTURISTIC


The landmark building creates a futuristic statement on the Cotai Strip, in contrast to its hotel neighbours © Ivan Dupont


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