Shanghai’s latest boutique hotel, The Waterhouse, is intimate, bordering on the voyeuristic – a deliberate ploy by the designer that’s meant to evoke the bustling life that surrounds the hotel in the small lanes of houses.
In a city full of towering modern architecture, hotelier Peng Loh (see Town Hall Hotel & Apartments, p56) opted for a run-down, Thirties warehouse building near the docks that had been used as an HQ by the Japanese army during the Second World War. The main corner plot has been converted into a 19-bedroom hotel while an adjoining warehouse is now an event space.
The design of the hotel itself centres around three main principles: nong-tangs (the small lane houses of Shanghai), the blurring of public and private spaces, and the contrast between the old and the new.
Architect Lyndon Neri has drawn deeply on his Chinese cultural heritage for this project. The nong-tangs are built so close together that people live cheek-by-jowl with neighbours. They are so small that tables are brought out on to the streets for evening meals, creating a sense of communality. Adding to the sense of openness, nong-tangs’ windows are often placed to deliberately allow views into the home.