The Mandrake, designed by Manalo & White, with Tala Fustok and CinA, is a 34-room boutique hotel in Fitzrovia, central London, converted from a pair of office buildings, which previously housed a TV production company. Deliberately understated on the outside, it is magical and full of surprises on the inside.
An unprepossessing, dark and mysterious entrance tunnel leads visitors from the street to the heart; a vibrant lobby, restaurant and bar connected in an enfilade sequence around a central glazed courtyard. Above the busy ground floor social hub is a large private first floor terrace, surrounded on all sides by a three-storey hanging garden of jasmine and passionflowers. This soft green cascade cloaks the elevated walkways that bridge between the guest rooms, wrapping like a curtain around the guests within.
The guest rooms are arranged around this internal courtyard, each with full-height glazed doors opening onto the walkways and private terraces. The vertical planting is interrupted by other forms, clad in weathered iroko reclaimed from the building’s previous incarnation, including a lift shaft with tattoo-lined interior, a hidden private bar and a glazed greenhouse dining room.
Secreted on the lower ground floor are WCs with a shared hand wash area equipped with specially designed hanging brass tubes that light the basins and provide warm running water. This subterranean area includes antechambers, seating spaces and a black walled ‘anti-gallery’ and live performance space.
The materiality of the hotel is that of the surrounding city: brick, steel, concrete, timber, stone, plants. But their arrangement creates a spectacular and surprising internal world; part of, but also distanced from the central London location. The client’s desire for an immersive environment is manifested in a heightened appreciation of the surrounding city. Rooftop views of the neighbouring backlands and crevices of the West End give a sense of the world beyond the hotel’s calm and highly sociable spaces, hidden deep within the urban block.
The hotel’s sociable and convivial ethos is enhanced through the porosity of the spaces, theatricality heightened by glimpsed and reflected views of spaces beyond, inviting further exploration. The marble-floored courtyard is the social hub, offering an appreciation of the whole environment. Branching out from this centre, the circulation stitches together the fragments of the original building with the simply detailed new components.