The Great Eastern Hotel
The refurbished Great Eastern Hotel, located in the heart of London’s financial district, opened its doors in February, 2000. The building, with its magnificent red brick facade and fine proportions, is a perfect example of Victorian public architecture, reflecting the romantic confidence of the era.
The new refurbishment by the Manser Practice, with interior and graphic design by Conran and Partners, revives the Victorian splendor of the original, but injects a strong spirit of modernity.
The concept was for a shared “modern classic” vocabulary throughout the hotel, but at the same time to revel in its juxtaposition and complexity. Careful restoration has been a significant part of the project as much of the building is listed.
The creation of the new lobby space involved the demolition of a listed 19th century room. Permission was granted on the understanding that the new interior included plaster mouldings as an integral part of the design. John Atkin was commissioned to produce the new mouldings which take their inspiration from locomotive parts, the hotel’s railway heritage.
The hotel has 267 bedrooms, four restaurants, four bars, a gym, and 12 dining and event rooms. There are many classical features, including marble staircases, fine plaster work and moldings, and many elegant public rooms.
Before the hotel reopened there was no way of walking from the east to west wing of the hotel without walking outside. The new scheme reconfigures the internal layout, creating a central axis around a six-story rotunda and guest elevator shaft.
One of the signature spaces in the hotel is the Gallery, a soaring contemporary space filled with light. It is an amazing place for private parties or for hotel guests to meet.
Each of the restaurants and bars is a distinctive entity; Terminus reinterprets the classic railway buffet, Fishmarket occupies a sea-green room beneath the gaze of plaster cherubs, Aurora is grand and beautiful, George is a Victorian take on a tudor, and Miyabi, designed by Conran and Partners, has an intimate minimalist atmosphere. Set in one of the most magnificent rooms George epitomizes the late Victorian predilection for historical pastiche.
With its oak panelled walls and panelled ceiling, it is one of the finest reproductions “Tudorbethan” interiors in London.
Because of the restaurant Aurora being heavily listed the restoration of the dramatic interior, and its striking stained-glass dome, was done with meticulous care. Experts took paint scrapings to establish the original color scheme.
The design of the restaurant Terminus, built in 1901, is based on the old fashioned railway station buffet, featuring an open kitchen and a black granite bar running the full length of the room.
The Japanese Miyabi restaurant seats only 28. The minimalist design, by Conran and Partners, is complemented by discreet, ambient lighting.
Though huge, it is an individual hotel where no two bedrooms are the same, reflecting the diversity of its heritage and structure. The rooms on the lower floors have higher ceilings and period features. All are fitted with with the latest state-of-the-art technology. The rooms on the fifth and 6th floors of the hotel are new, extending into the domed copper roof. From one of the porthole windows there is a view of Norman Foster’s Swiss Re “Gherkin.”
Artist and designer names are popping up all over; from the “You make My Heart Go Boom” neon sign in the lobby, by Frank B, to Patrick Coalfield prints, Nan Golden photographs, Eames, Crosier and Arne Jacobsen chairs, and flowers by Wild at Heart…to name a few.
The Great Eastern Hotel Company is a joint venture between Conran Holdings and Wyndham International who acquired the hotel in 1997 and began the three year refurbishment and reconstruction program.
The original Great Eastern Hotel was developed in two stages for the Great Eastern Railway Company. The first section of the hotel was designed and built by Charles Barry and his son Charles Edward Barry, one of the great architectural dynasties of the 19th century, between 1879 and 1884.
Colonel Robert Edis then extended the hotel between 1898 and 1901. Although the extension imitates the external style of the original building, Colonel Edis enjoyed a free rein with the new interiors indulging in baroque plaster work, late Elizabethan oak panelling, an an Egyptian Masonic Temple…..now a gym.