Bermonds Locke is located at the heart of southeast London’s Bermondsey neighbourhood, just a few minutes walk from notable landmarks such as The Shard and Tower Bridge.
Despite the hotel’s markedly urban setting, when it came to designing its communal areas and 143 guest rooms, Holloway Li took inspiration from sun-scorched places in California like the Mojave desert and Joshua Tree National Park.
“We eschewed traditional London vernacular tropes and prevailing design trends, looking further afield for our inspirations, to create a new space that had an escapist identity,” the studio’s co-founder, Alex Holloway, told Dezeen.
The theme is subtly introduced in the hotel’s reception where mirrors have been used to line sections of the ceiling, mimicking the shiny quality of desert mirages, which are often mistaken for bodies of water.
A white, mottled semi-circular panel has been fitted to the ceiling directly above the concierge counter, its reflection forming a huge moon-like image.
Surrounding surfaces have been largely rendered with neutral materials like clay bricks and timber that the studio felt matched the desert landscape.
This excludes a handful of walls and structural columns that are clad with passivated zinc, which boasts a rainbow-coloured surface finish.
“Joshua Tree is known as a pilgrimage destination for the Californian hallucinogenic travellers,” said Holloway. “The iridescence effect on the metal is reminiscent of dizzying colour saturation of the psychedelic experience – the brilliant purples, yellows and pinks.”
A variety of seating areas have also been incorporated in Bermonds Locke’s reception so that it can serve as a co-working space.
Where possible, the studio has tried to repurpose construction materials that otherwise would have been destined for landfill, influenced by the ad-hoc building methods used when creating cabins across Joshua Tree.
For example, salvaged concrete test cubes have been used to form the base of a six-metre-long terrazzo desk. The cubes are covered with pre-used tiles, some of which are still marked with graffiti.
“Joshua Tree has been a recluse for fringe creatives escaping LA for the past 30 years,” explained Holloway. “We were particularly interested in the eccentric language of bricolage found in desert cabins dotted around Joshua Tree, composed of salvaged materials that happen to be available by chance.”
“We were also inspired by the work of artists like Philip K Smith III and Noah Purifoy, whose ‘Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture’ is an incredible world made of the detritus of LA,” he continued.
“This tied back with the studio’s recent research on the circular material economy…design in this context becomes almost like a curatorial practice, about how an existing set of materials can be rearranged in a very specific way to define new uses.”
In another nod to hot, arid landscapes, huge planters filled with different cacti and succulents have been added throughout the hotel’s reception and used to separate its cocktail bar from the restaurant.
Bermonds Locke’s upper floors play host to the guest suites. Each one comes complete with its own kitchenette and laundry facilities, allowing guests to stay self-sufficiently in their rooms for longer periods of time.
Fixtures and soft furnishings have been made in colours evocative of desert sunsets, ranging from pale blues to burnt oranges and vivid reds. The focal point of each room is the bed, which is enclosed by a bespoke black frame draped with sheets of linen.
“Typical hotel room design is very codified by two functions; sleeping and washing – a Locke room adds eat, work, live into that mix, so there is a lot to fit into just one room,” added the studio’s co-founder, Na Li.
“It was key for us to impart some separation between the areas, which we achieved by creating a sense of enclosure around the bed with the bedframes and drapes.”
Holloway Li was established in 2015 and has offices in north London.
Its Bermonds Locke project joins several hotels that the Locke hospitality group has dotted across the UK. Others include the Whitworth Locke in Manchester, where rooms have been painted different shades of grey to reflect the city’s typically overcast skies.
There’s also the Eden Locke in Edinburgh, which takes over an 18th-century Georgian terrace house.
Photography is by Edmund Dabney.
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