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Luxurious Hospitality: St. Regis Shanghai Hotel by Sydness Architects, P.C. and HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates

Shanghai, China: A slender hotel tower adds distinctive grace to the skyline and offers elegant interiors for guests.

by Kristen Richards
August 8, 2002

One of the newest and more striking additions to the Shanghai skyline is the St. Regis Shanghai Hotel designed by New York City-based Sydness Architects, P.C., with interiors by the Hong Kong office of HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates. The five-star international hotel, operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, is located in the newly developed business and financial district of the city called Pudong. Formerly covered in rice fields, the area now filling up with office towers, hotels, and residential communities.


Sydness Architects was commissioned for the project after winning an international design competition. “Since the project was a competition, we were not allowed to have extensive contact with the owner during the initial design period, says design principal K. Jeffries Sydness, AIA. We were given the zoning regulations, which are very restrictive in the new Pudong district of Shanghai, and strict height and setback restrictions exist. Traffic flow is also governed very carefully, and access and egress to a site are usually given. The St. Regis is on a proposed elevated mass transit line, so an additional easement was established along the major thoroughfare, and a landscaped green belt was designed as part of the project.


The slender, 38-story tower is clad in red granite expressed in a grid that responds to the guest room module and the building’s height. Two gently curving peaks at the “split top” of the tower are set at different heights and point in opposite directions. A glass-enclosed central corridor sandwiched between the stone-clad peaks allows the slabs to visually “slide” past each other, and rises up and allows expansive views of the city from a restaurant and lounge at the top.


There were no limitations on the materials, equipment, or finishes, Sydness explains. Since we knew that the owner was seeking a five-star hotel, the quality and level of finishes could not be anything other than the best. No local influences were imposed on our design, and the owner made very few, if any, alterations to the design after we won the competition.


The 24-meter-high podium contains the essential hotel functions. The three-story lobby continues the theme of the gentle curve, and provides a surprisingly intimate setting for lounges and a restaurant looking out to the south. A graceful grand staircase forms the centerpiece of the lobby leading to the ballroom and meeting rooms on the third floor. The swimming pool (set under a grid of skylights) and health spa are located on the fifth-floor podium level, and a tennis court is neatly fitted onto the roof of the podium.


HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates won a second competition to design the interiors, which complement the hotel's architecture. In addition to the public spaces, including five restaurants, there are 318 rooms, including 48 suites. (At 48 square meters, the guest rooms are purported to be the largest in Shanghai.) The design concept is contemporary and theatrical – taking inspiration from the grandness and opulence of historic opera houses. Touches of Asian art, a smattering of antique furniture, and richly colored finishes, sensuous fabrics, and elegant furnishings add up to luxurious and dramatic interiors befitting a world-class hotel.


Upon entering the St. Regis Shanghai you know you have truly “arrived.” The impressive triple height lobby has a theatrical feel and features dark, voluminous, floor-to-ceiling draperies. These are overlaid with powerful, suspended artworks of mammoth proportions. There are soaring bamboo groves and the sound of trickling water from a fountain.


An important goal was to visually connect the public spaces, which was achieved through design and attention to detail at the planning stage. The lobby area has an open plan feel and takes advantage of the enormous scale. The mezzanine-level bar and lobby lounge, accessed by the grand staircase, are both excellent vantage points from which to relax and observe the flurry of activity below. Curving floors overlooking the lobby space lead to the pre-function and Grand Ballroom areas. Reminiscent of opera house balconies, they provide the opportunity for some further “star spotting.”


The transitional style and color schemes of the guestrooms create a relaxed environment with a sophisticated residential feel. Large glass and timber sliding doors lead to opulent bathrooms appointed with every conceivable amenity, including over-size soaking tubs and televisions.


Occupying the top two floors is the Imperial Suite – a striking double-height space flanked on one side by a full-height framed mirror, with a grand staircase and dining room beyond. It is a theatrical and elegant setting, with yards of draped silk enveloping the two-story windows, masses of velvet and gold brocade fabrics coupled with unique art and accessories, and (but of course) a grand piano. The suite also features a private video room for entertaining clients, friends, and family.


The St. Regis Shanghai began construction in 1998, and opened in July 2001. It was listed in "Best New Business Hotels 2001" by Forbes magazine, and has since established itself as the place to see and be seen in Shanghai.


Owner/Developer: Hong Ta

Architect: Sydness Architects, P.C., Architects

Design Team: K. Jeffries Sydness, AIA (Design Principal), Kevin J. Stimpson (Managing Principal), Stephen M. Simon (Associate), Katherine Vysotsky, Dong Mei Yao, Amy Statuto

Interior Design: HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates

Design Team: Mathew Lui (Senior Designer), Paulo Dias (Senior Decorator)

Structural Engineers: Leslie E.Robertson Associates, LLP, Dan Sesil (Partner)

Consulting Engineers: Flack and Kurtz, LLP, Lenny Zimmermann (Partner)

Local Associate Architects/Engineers/M&E Consultant: Eastern China Architectural Design Institute, ECADI, Shanghai

Lighting Consultant: Tino Kwan Associates, Hong Kong

Photographer: Jaime Ardiles-Arce


Sydness Architects, PC is a full-service architectural firm with a wide range of experience in a variety of project types including residential, educational, cultural, commercial office buildings, hotels, retail centers, master-planned communities, and mixed-use developments. The firm has won both international and local design competitions and has been fortunate to enjoy repeat commissions from several clients. Prior to forming Sydness Architects, K. Jeffries Sydness was a partner with John Burgee Architects, the successor firm to Johnson/Burgee Architects founded by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Joining the firm in 1979, Sydness was promoted to partner in 1988. He was the Design Partner responsible for several projects at JBA including Takashimaya in New York, Puerta de Europa in Madrid, Spain, the MacArthur Centre in Brisbane, Australia, and the Conrad International Hotel in Singapore.


HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates is credited with revolutionizing the practice of hotel design as a professional discipline and for over 37 years has continuously been the acknowledged leader in this field. Having successfully completed well over 600 projects in 50 countries, HBA has garnered a ubiquitous knowledge of the cultural, financial, geographic, and programmatic requirements involved in designing world-class hotels and resorts. HBA employs over 200 design professionals in offices operating in Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Milan, and Dubai. Additionally, there are three affiliated companies under the HBA umbrella: PSL offers the service of purchasing agent; Graphis International creates comprehensive image packaging by integrating logos, signage, stationery, uniforms, and guest amenity products with the interior design; and AGI Art Group International offers art consultation and research services.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Mr. Miao)
Outlined in lights at night, the St. Regis Shanghai cuts a slender profile against the skyline.

(Mr. Miao)
The red granite façade gives the hotel a striking presence by day.

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
A landscaped green belt at the front of the hotel was designed to accommodate a proposed elevated mass transit line.

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
The soaring three-story lobby and graceful grand staircase reflect the gentle curves of the building's "split top."

(Mr. Miao)
The mezzanine-level bar overlooks the main lobby.

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
The second floor lobby

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
A stainless-steel grid of skylights tops the swimming pool on the fifth floor.

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
The entrance to Danieli's, an Italian restaurant atop the building

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
Danieli's offers expansive views of the city.

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
Carrianna is an elegant Chinese restaurant.

(Jaime Ardiles-Arce)
The Imperial Suite master bedroom

First floor plan

© 2002