Bringing brands to life

Merlin Entertainments has launched its most immersive themed hotels. Chris Jeffcoate, associate director at The Manser Practice, takes us through the design journey.

current hotel operations. Deliveries were centralised, back of house areas enhanced, check-in and retail spaces reconfigured, food and beverage offering extended and new lifts installed.

WE were approached by Merlin Entertainments in 2014 to look at their latest hotel schemes at Legoland Windsor Resort and Cbeebies Alton Towers Resort. Both were to be marketed as a premium and unique option for guests as part of a drive to increase the appeal of the company’s short break offerings. The Legoland Castle Hotel is a 61-

bedroom hotel offering fully-themed public areas comprising a double-height entrance, tavern style restaurant, bar, terrace and guestrooms that offer comfort and entertainment for children and adults. Merlin & Legoland were keen for the hotel to work alongside the existing hotel at Windsor Resort and operate as an extension to their facilities. To enable this, a full review of current and future guest flow was carried out alongside a review of


creating the magic Working with such an iconic brand meant that the design had to be market tested at preliminary stages, with up to eight concepts drafted before the final theme was selected. Creatives at Merlin Magic Making joined the wider team of consultants to form an enhanced team capable of making co-ordinated design decisions, understanding that the most minor detail could have an impact on bespoke theming elements. With the aim of achieving an enchanted

life-sized Lego castle for guests to stay in, the Lego Castle Range was used to guide the colour scheme and material choices for the project and provide inspiration for the bespoke facade. In development stages, we sought to incorporate this into the building fabric rather than as an add on, hence delivering a durable, cost-effective and programme-efficient solution that simplified the future maintenance strategy. After a detailed sign off and planning process, we developed a glass-reinforced

concrete system using tessellating sandwich panels formed off-site in a predesigned mould which replicated a unique stonework texture, similar to that of the Castle Range Lego. The cladding gives the impression that the hotel has been constructed of 25x-scale Lego bricks - meaning a scale replica could in fact be built from Lego. The CBeebies Land Hotel is the fourth

hotel at Alton Towers and the first to be tied directly to an external brand. The hotel comprises 76 bedrooms with a large restaurant, bar and entertainment space. Permission had been granted on the site for a four-storey bedroom block, to be supported by the existing hotels. The initial challenge was to develop a

design that would meet the requirements of the brief for a hotel that could operate independently, offer more bedrooms, was better suited to the CBeebies target market and would still achieve planning in a conservation area. Understanding that the local authority, the BBC and Merlin all had different interests, we tailored the presentation of information to achieve buy- in and support from each party. On both Legoland Castle Hotel and

Cbeebies Land Hotel, the complexity of the internal themes presented a challenge for

Images: Adam Woodward

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