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Located on the shores of the Thames inside a retro 1970s ex-office complex in London’s South Bank, the Sea Containers could potentially help the Morgans Hotels umbrella brand to reclaim some of its mojo on the international hotel scene, following years of stiff growing competition in the design hotel space.
If you’re a hotel person you’re pulling for Mondrian to reinvigorate the Morgans flag, because you remember when the original Morgans Hotel in Manhattan and sister Delano in Miami changed the world of hospitality forever.
But the rest of the world swooped in and copied the Morgans model. The Standard and SLS Hotels assumed the mantel of the next big thing, and then the Millennials frowned upon the very excesses that made Morgans, Morgans.
With Mondrian London, there’s a spark of the old swagger back as seen in the new video. The visuals are jarring, tangled, shifting chaotically among media genres from 1970’s black-and-white homemade films to the 1990’s saturated ad campaigns of David LaChapelle to the grainy, gritty Instagram palette of today.
Filmed entirely in London’s South Bank, the video is edgy, messy, dark, playful and disconsonant—like the creative process itself—which is now the new brand muse for Mondrian.
“Mondrians are hotels for creators,” says Alan Philips, CMO of Morgans Hotel Group. “They’re focused around creativity and being a refuge for creators.”
We spoke with Philips on the phone and via email to dig into Mondrian’s branding pivot and design ethos.
Skift: Can you expound on how Mondrians are a “refuge for creators”?
Alan Philips: They’re really a global platform for creativity to be fostered, shared and enjoyed. Creativity is about collaboration so the video is meant to capture that sense of London’s South Bank today. The energy there reminds me of what the Meatpacking District was 10 to 15 years ago.”
Skift: What is the video about?
Alan Philips: The video is about the act of creation and the process that every creative person goes through, between the ecstasy and the agony where innovation lives, which I think defines what the future of Mondrian Hotels is.
Skift: When you say London’s South Bank is a hotbed of creativity, wasn’t that the case ten years ago around the time when the Tate Modern opened? Is that still a thing?
Alan Philips: Very much so, definitely. Tate established South Bank as a cultural destination, but now people from places like Soho, Fitzrovia and Mayfair are moving in, and coming over to go out and dine and shop and be social, which is a major change in the London experience. Mondrian London is anchoring that. It’s a more mixed crowd, different people, lots of different people, and ideas mixing together. It’s really all about collaboration and people working together to create something larger than themselves.
Skift: How do you excite culturally-attuned, well-traveled people with hotel design in 2014?
Alan Philips: You excite them by being authentic and telling a story. What I mean by this is the design must be a natural extension of the location in which it exists. Once you have found this thread within the city, building or neighborhood you’re developing in, it is the job of the designer and the creative team to weave in a meaningful narrative through the hotel and its outlets.
We are in the business of storytelling. There is not a big difference between a great hotelier and a great writer or filmmaker.
Skift: How is that reflected in the video?
Alan Philips: The video is a short vignette that parallels the creative process with the location, creators and the process of creating Mondrian London. This hotel is the future of the Mondrian brand and the first hotel fully created and concepted by this team. There are so many talented people involved in this project such as Tom Dixon, Seamus Mullen, Ryan Chetiyawardana, Karen Langley, Piers Walker and many more, not to mention the internal team.
Skift: Can you discuss some of the most interesting design/architectural elements, and how the hotel storyline aligns with location.
Alan Philips: For the design of the hotel, Tom was inspired by the golden age of transatlantic travel and the interplay between London and New York, or as he says, “the best of both worlds.” He was able to play out this vision on such a grand scale because the building, originally designed by Warren Platner, is an amazing canvas.
When it was built it was meant to be a hotel, and now we have brought it back to that original intent, which is pretty exciting and feels natural and authentic.
The “Copper Hull” is a burnished copper version of a ship’s hull that runs throughout the lobby. The hull begins in the porte cochere and then forms the check-in desk and continues directly into the restaurant. It is an amazing site and acts almost like a visual tour guide, bringing you into the restaurant to begin your experience post check-in.
Skift: How is it differentiated in terms of product and positioning in London’s hotel market?
Alan Philips: It is a destination experience where as a local or a hotel guest, both tourist and business traveler, you can get everything in one place: food, drinks, entertainment, spa, screening room, meeting rooms, etc. You could spend days in this building without experiencing all that is available.
Mondrian is also incredibly inclusive and democratic, meaning it is priced reasonably from room rates to food and drink, while still maintaining the aspirational nature, innovation and social/celebrity culture that comes with any Mondrian. And finally there are the views. There is just nothing like it in London. You look out of the windows and all you see is the center of the world, the city of London, for eternity.