Jestico + Whiles completes key new learning centre for the University of Cambridge
A new building that offers co-working and social spaces, the West Hub marks the start of the transformation of the West Cambridge Site into a centre for innovation.
At the 159-room Queen’s Gardens property, Holland Harvey Architects and Caitlin Henderson Design explore wellness, channeling Northern European style and Eastern philosophy.
Caitlin Henderson / Holland Harvey
Mandarin Stone, Havwoods, Vicalvi, Casa Ceramica, In Opera Group, EGE Carpets
Goldfinger Factory, Carl Hansen, Skagerak, Muuto, Benchmark, &Tradition, Stella Works, Another Country, Vitra, Sika Design, Resident, Pedralli, Open Desk, Loaf, Nanimarquina, The Contract Chair Company, Verges, Vitra, Innovation Living, Hill Cross Furniture, Utology
Mosa, Domus, Arte, Surrey Marble & Granite Company
Tala, Lumart, Lucent, Vibia, Architectural FX, Le Klint, &Tradition, Oluce, POTT, Kalmar, Klaylife, Secto Design, Flos, Celine Wright, Lucepan
Contra Curtains, Kvadrat, Casamance, Kelham Island Concrete, Granby Workshop, Sylvan Joiners, Utopia Projects, Assa Abloy
Words: Kristofer Thomas
In hotel design, wellness has come to mean many things to many guests. Wellness is yoga mats and face-masks; wellness is plant covered walls; wellness is fine-tuned medical treatments and wellness is a moment of quiet in a busy city. When a turn of phrase is saturated to this extent, it becomes difficult to truly pin down any one interpretation as being correct. The solution? Give guests the opportunity to explore this broad value from multiple angles and they will define it for themselves.
Taking visual cues from Scandinavia and a dash of Zenphilosophy from further east, Inhabit Queen’s Gardens is the eponymous brand’s second London property following a 2019 debut in Paddington’s Southwick Street. It sees designers Holland Harvey Architects and Caitlin Henderson Design reunited to usher in the next chapter.
Occupying a curl of 19th century townhouses near Lancaster Gate, the 159-key project is first and foremost a wellness hotel, though it eschews the buzz-baiting pitfalls of the term with an approach that instills personal and social ideals into its core. Featuring a 70-cover meat-free restaurant, a tranquil artwork series curated by Culture A, a dedicated wellness centre (Inhale at Inhabit), and a noise-free library lined with meditation guides, self-help tomes and area guides alike, the project channels a holistic interpretation and so too the calming effects of spatial harmony. Likewise, providing an element of social wellness, suppliers have been selected for their good intentions as much as their designs; joinery by Goldfinger – an initiative combining community-sourced materials with ‘planet-positive’ construction methods – is joined by cushions from Aerende, the Hertfordshire-based non-profit studio that works with makers recovering from mental health issues and adults with learning disabilities.
“The design experience goes beyond the visual,” says Caitlin Henderson. “As consumers we have become more conscious and want to know how things are made and who made them. Wherever possible, we tried to work with businesses that value sustainability and social change.”
Public spaces in the lounge and lobby unfold with a light, airy palette of white walls, eggshell accents and pale timber, and are populated by furnishings from Carl Hansen and Muuto, atop Havwoods flooring. Pops of colour are subtle and focused, with royal blue fabrics and green plant-life quietly drawing the eye, though moments of striking statement are found in pieces like the natural white and green veined marble bar sourced from Surrey Marble & Granite Company. Elsewhere, a reception fireplace in custom terrazzo by Granby Workshop and a textured art installation behind the check-in by Anne Mette Beck are illuminated by a mixture of natural light and pieces specified by lighting specialist There’s Light.
“As this was a larger property than the debut hotel, there was more space and scope to evolve the brand,” explain Holland Harvey Architects. “For example, the integration of the bar area as a central focus, which Southwick Street does not have; this is evolution not revolution, a continuation of ideas and the approach at a larger scale with continued research and development into materials, suppliers and narrative. Sustainability and social impact were at the forefront of decision making.”
In guestrooms, this style is condensed into a harmonious residential sanctuary of pastels, tall windows that bathe the spaces in light and furnishings by Vitra and Innovation Living, whilst homeware pieces by ceramicist Freya Bramble Carter and refillable amenities by Skasdinavisk add detail. Adjacent bathroom spaces feature sinks by Kelham Island Concrete amidst more industrial-inspired leanings of black metal framed doors and Mosa Tiles. However, rounded edges serve to soften the scheme here, with the foundation of timber and green elements weaving everything back into the wider framework of wellness.
“Wellness is all encompassing and we believe a guest’s experience with the design can impact their mood, Henderson adds. “For this reason, we incorporated natural oak, soft lighting, serene colours and gentle textiles to heighten the sensual experience.”
Down in the subterranean wellness centre and treatment rooms – arguably the key player in a project so dedicated to this value – even the skeletal peloton bikes fit sleekly within the minimalist, Zen-inspired scheme. Never straying too far from this core styling, it poses a question as to whether the meditative relaxation spaces inspired the wider project or vice versa; perhaps the strongest sign this approach has been successful.
“Like London, Scandinavian countries are dark and cold for over half of the year, yet they have bright, warm, inviting interiors,” Henderson notes. “Our goal was not to recreate a Scandinavian interior but reinterpret the warmth in a London setting.”
Only in its second iteration, Inhabit’s London presence has already set out a signature style. At a time when the world needs a moment of relaxation more than ever, the evolution of the brand’s aesthetic – and so too the committed intention of its designers to marry their practice with good causes – makes for a notable presence in a market preoccupied with wellness to the point of overcrowding.
Photography: Tim Evan Cook
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