There’s nothing average about The Middle House. The giant chandelier in the 111-room hotel’s (excluding its residences) lobby is just the first hint that Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni is thinking in macro terms for the Shanghai hotspot, part of a city-center mixed-use development (yes, the location gave the hotel its deceptively median name).
Sure, it helps that Swire Hotels, the owner/operator behind the House Collective (other properties include The Opposite House, Beijing; Temple House, Chengdu; and The Upper House, Hong Kong), has a penchant for high-octane, provocative design. But, even self-confessed architect/designer-driven brands need to find a fresh offer within their own niche. That’s why Lissoni knew he had to draw on his own experiences, outlook and vision, rather than try to add a fourth chapter in Swire’s narrative. So, he started his vision board halfway around the world.
“As a European, I organized the space in a different way,” he says. Lissoni imported the concept of intimate seating groups, low sight lines and informal lobby layouts. Café Gray Deluxe’s volume is divided by hard-edged partial walls, while Studio 50 (the smallest of the hotel’s six room types) guestrooms’ seating areas face the bed in a conversation zone.
Even the most cosmopolitan style still needs a local grounding. Lissoni says he wants to make sure guests know they’re in Shanghai. Having brought his continental perspective to the flow of the hotel, he turned to a modern version of typically Chinese materials for that grounding. Porcelain and ceramic cladding, used on expansive surfaces rather than in accents, provides a chic, visually cool balance to the interactive floorplans. Think a jet-black, gleaming bar wall, or glazed bathroom partitions.
Lissoni’s final touch to unite his two disparate influences is the use of light. Louvers on the outside of the building give the illumination within a geometric structure that resembles many traditional Asian buildings, but, in guest bathrooms, evokes a playful stripe pattern more reminiscent of Paris or Milan Fashion Week. Best of both worlds? Yes.