project with other companies. The entire project team needed to be highly motivated in order to complete all construction and fit-out of a pioneering project with such a range of complex geometry in under three years. Muscettola puts it simply: “They are not going to do what we ask them to do if you don’t have a good way of collaborating. While she says that the client was instrumental in this, having a “good technical team fully employed by them,” and being hands on all the way through the design and construction. She adds: “The vision from the client was brought all the way down to every consultant – the challenges were down to every fabricator, to find solutions that were outside the box.”

Interiors While most hotels make do with a forecourt and canopy to welcome guests, the canopy here is the building itself, guests entering via the porte-cochere formed underneath. They are then dazzled by a 40 metre high atrium, where the external triangular structural motif is repeated in two spectacular feature walls framing the space. These are three- dimensional and formed in triangular metal sections (aluminium at ground level and GRG above), each formed of smaller, backlit triangles.

Completing the composition is a roof formed by the exoskeleton wrapping the bottom internal face of the hotel’s first central void. Its symmetrical pattern of triangles adds to the kaleidoscopic overall effect, letting daylight stream in from above. The white marble floor’s pattern was also designed by ZHA, with yellow stone inlays to imply the circulation path guests will take. There is both a strong focus on the refinement of materials and design, and an intense sense of formal order – perhaps something of a contrast to the more free-form aspects of the exterior. The 21st floor ‘Yi’ restaurant, offering modern Chinese fare, is arguably the most dramatic internal space after the atrium. Sited on the bridge, the exoskeleton curves sharply over the space, but the interior has been designed to provide a contrasting level of intimacy. ‘Pods’ of tables are surrounded by sculptural screens, reflecting Chinese society’s habits of having private gatherings in separate rooms. Each screen is formed of hundreds of bronze-finished steel leaves, offering privacy (for example from the lifts passing nearby up the interior faces of the voids) while also allowing discreet views



© Virgile Simon Bertrand

out and light in. Designed by ZHA, these impressive structures are simultaneously somewhat forbidding, and protective.

Conclusion The client’s aim was to provide a hotel which would fully represent their ambitions as a major operator, and reach towards the future to distance Morpheus from its nearby competitors. Also, it provides a special place in itself for guests to remain, its very structure creating spectacular views where there were none. It’s also a true celebration of architectural geometry – one minute in an orderly, disciplined fashion in the atrium, and the next throwing away the rules externally.

In its bold exuberance, Morpheus might have been something of a gamble for both client and architect, somewhat appropriate in Asia’s gaming capital. However due to a major team effort supporting the realisation of the design’s keen sense of pragmatism allied to playfulness, an architectural milestone has been reached. ZHA’s Muscetolla says close

collaboration was a feature throughout this project, and was core to “a very smooth process” between client, architect and the rest of the project team. Delivering a groundbreaking hotel of this complexity at pace – without glaring crises – is, says the project director, a testimony to the “respect” and “open discussion” that characterised this job. As one of Zaha Hadid’s final projects, it’s also fitting that the building is a game-changer. 

© Virgile Simon Bertrand

© Virgile Simon Bertrand PROJECT FACTFILE

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects Main contractor: Dragages Macao Area of high performance glazing: 43,388 m2

GFA: 150,000 m2 Build cost: £767m No. of beds: 780

No. of exoskeleton connections: 2,500 (1200 nodes/1300 bolted)

(Saint-Gobain Coolite)


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