• Steve

PEACE, LOVE & SWATCH ART – SHANGHAI

Updated: May 11

On the banks of The Bund in Shanghai, is one of the most unique concepts I have ever seen.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is no ordinary luxury hotel, this one of a kind building is a working art institute and residential community.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is the creation of the Swiss watch brand, Swatch. For over 30 years, the company has revolutionised the watch industry by working with some of the most talented artists from around the globe.

Art is an invaluable expression of a people’s heritage and culture – Nick G Hayek, Chairman of The Swatch Group

Swatch the brand, blends state-of-the art watchmaking and unique contemporary art with a sole purpose of making the world a more beautiful place. With this at its core, the group created the Swatch Art Peace Hotel.

In Shanghai’s former financial district directly on The Bund, The Swatch Art Peace Hotel features a luxury hotel and several retail boutiques with workshop residence apartments for artists from around the world to live and work creatively for up to six months.

This unique concept with a focal point of contemporary art, enables up to 18 artists to live and work in the hotel in workshop apartments located on the 2nd and 3rd floors, to exchange ideas and work together in an extraordinary creative environment.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is situated on the crossroads of Nanjing Road and The Bund, Shanghai’s most important avenue. The Bund became the heart of the international settlement established after the Treaty of Nanking (1842) brought an end to the First Opium War.

In 1909 the International Opium Commission met in the Palace Hotel, the most luxurious hotel in Shanghai at the time, for the first international conference dedicated to the prohibition of opium.

The former Palace Hotel is now home to The Swatch Art Peace Hotel and has been lovingly restored to its former glory featuring characteristic architectural features, including period ceilings and pillar decorations.

Entering the building it’s hard to think you’re in China, the building, in a Victorian Baroque architectural style, would be more suited to mainland Europe. This is understandable when you realise that this area historically was where headquarters for banks and trading organisations from Europe and the United States were based during the 19th Century.

Through the wooden revolving door you are greeted by an elegant lobby area featuring black and white marble flooring and ornate wood paneled walls. Giant chandeliers grab your attention, hanging from ornate gold gilded ceilings. Leading off from the lobby area are the Omega and Swatch watch boutiques.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel features just 7 guest accommodations, 3 large exclusive themed Suites, a medium-sized Suite and 3 standard Rooms. Located on the 4th floor, accessed by either the grand staircase or via two elevators (the first elevators in Shanghai) is The Residence.

The Residence is the setting for hotel guest accommodation, individually styled with art being at the forefront of design and accessed by a long sumptuous dark grey corridor, each suite features a hidden doorway.

The three large executive Suites are named 'Peace', 'Happiness' and 'Prosperity'. Along with the these, the hotel also features the medium size 'Good Fortune Suite' and 'Cheerful', 'Wondrous' and 'Joyful' standard rooms.


THE PEACE SUITE

The 'Peace Suite' covers 190 sq mt and its design was based on the history and future of the building. The centre piece is a huge wooden shell-like structure which houses the bathroom;

It contrasts an interior shell evocative of the British colonial past with contemporary elements that suggest an ultra-modern future for the city of Shanghai

As you walk into the entrance the first thing you notice is how much light floods into the suite, with giant windows along three of the four walls. The floor and ceiling are made from warm Chinese elm wood which complements the cool white walls, colonial woodwork and moulding.

To the left of the entrance is the ‘nutshell’ a structure made from Chinese elm wood, housing the bathroom. Inside is an all white bathroom suite with an illustrated Chinese dragon embossed into the shower wall and comes complete with a huge sunken bath tub and luxury rain shower.

Continuing round to the bedroom with views over The Bund, is an elevated sleeping area with a king sized bed, flat screen TV and dressing room.

Leading from the bedroom you'll find the living quarters, a large sitting room and dining room complete with an eight-seat Scandinavian style dining table. The design of the suite is kept minimal with two large curved sofas, complemented by contemporary styled lounge chairs surrounding a selection of pebble shaped coffee tables. The colour palette mixes neutral hues of taupe, white and cream with an added pop of contrasting colour from accent cushions. The suite features a huge flat screen TV in the living room, hidden above the fireplace in an ornate wooden case to blend in with the rooms surroundings.


THE HAPPINESS SUITE

The 'Happiness Suite' presents an exploration of Chinese arts and handicrafts and is separated into two zones, white and gentle black. The main materials and colours used are influenced from the study of fabric and paper. The bathroom walls, for example, feature painted large black shadows replicating Chinese calligraphy.

The striking centrepiece of the room is the enormous lotus flower bed constructed of bamboo. Reminiscent of a birds nest, the designers wanted guests to feel nurtured and protected by being softly enclosed whilst they sleep.

The 'Happiness Suite' is the largest of all suites, covering 250 sq mt, with an enormous seating area featuring custom-made wooden furniture based on traditional Chinese benches. The walls are covered in wallpaper which echo the branches of blossom trees, whilst the warm tones of the wooden floor give a real calm and natural feel to the room. In contrast the living area features a hidden bar and DJ booth for those late night rendezvous.


THE PROSPERITY SUITE

Mixing contemporary art and hints of the buildings past was the design concept for the 'Prosperity Suite'. This 235 sq mt suite has four distinct rooms all underlined by a strong colour identity.

The main living area has a feature colour of egg-yolk yellow, with the sofas and occasional furniture in the bold shade. This is in contrast with dark wooden flooring and crisp white walls. The walls of the living room are covered in giant sheets of blank white canvas paper and the centre table is filled with artistic materials when a guest checks in. It is then up to them to create whatever art that inspires them, I loved this idea and the suite was my personal favourite.

Moving through from the sitting room brings you to the bar area, a modern dark floored zone with glass, metal and mirrored cabinets; as cool as any city bar and the perfect place for a soirée.

Passing the bar along a long corridor, the next room is the giant luxury bathroom and library. This striking white room, with wood parquet flooring and white wooden shelving is an elegant retreat, giving the feeling of a luxury spa. The room features a free-standing bath in the centre of the room and a giant all mirrored shower room, enough to fit quite a few party members from the bar next door (now now, cheeky!!)

At the far end of the corridor is the Master Bedroom, a large oval shaped room with consealed wardrobes, recessed mood lighting and a beautiful art installation featuring a thousand tiny sheep sculptures. The Chinese Zodiac sign, the Sheep, represents prosperity and is seen to be calm, gentle, artistic and elegant. The room follows these characteristic with warm dark parquet flooring, soft warm lighting and luxurious bedding, a perfect oasis in the midst of the busy city.

A hidden doorway from the Master Bedroom leads out onto a private outdoor terrace garden, a little retreat in the madness of Shanghai. The terrace comes complete with wooden Sheep stools to follow the prosperity theme outdoors.


THE GOOD FORTUNE SUITE & THE CHEERFUL, WONDROUS & JOYFUL ROOMS

Conceived to be simple artist lofts, the 'Good Fortune Suite' and the three standard rooms are designed to be high-end versions of the artist’s quarters located on the floor below.

The 87 sq mt suite is light and airy with exposed brick work and warm Chinese elm wood on the floor and the ceiling. Off white ceramic tiles and a glass wall partition separate the bathroom from the living area, exposed yet creating an elegant and romantic feel to the suite. The contemporary furniture is custom-made from elm wood, with influences from traditional Chinese furniture.

Like the 'Good Fortune' suite, the three standard rooms are styled with a similar feel. The designers wanted to create the look and style of a ‘artist's apartment’ and at 40 sq mt the rooms are a good size and feature exposed brick, Chinese elm wood and glass bathrooms.


FOOD & DRINK

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel features Shook Restaurant on the 5th floor, first developed in Kuala Lumpur. The sister restaurant here in Shanghai serves a combination of Asian and modern Western cuisine in a sophisticated moody atmosphere.

the open-kitchen conveys the feel of ‘dining without borders’ – intimate, nothing hidden, open to all – Shook Shanghai

As I walked down the all black entrance corridor to the restaurant, passing the extensive glass wine collection, the restaurant appears dramatic and atmospheric. The interior reflects the cuisine with an East meets West combination, wooden carved Oriental ceilings mix well with European style crystal chandeliers. Tanned leather chairs are mixed with cow print to add texture and contrast to the room, combined with ornate Oriental style tables.

The colour red is prominently used within the lighting of the restaurant and within the hotel's bar, 'The Time Bar.' The colour red in China represents happiness and good fortune and is a symbol of fire and power to warn off evil.

The restaurant also offers 'The Chiang-Soong Room' for private dining, this historic dining room was the venue of the first 'International Opium Conference' back in 1909.

Moving onto the roof of The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is 'The Terrace', a large open air outdoor space overlooking The Bund and the skyscrapers of Pudong. White sofas mix with the wooden decked flooring and natural green topiary, creating a cool and funky setting to enjoy the bright lights of Shanghai.

'The Terrace' serves cocktails and after dinner drinks and was Shanghai’s first roof-top terrace. When constructed in 1908 the building was the tallest in Shanghai and its two roof towers became its signature feature. Within the two roof towers are private dining rooms, 'The Corner Tower Room' and 'Blancpain Room' for intimate dining for up to eight people.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is certainly an impressive establishment, I love the fact there are only seven guest accommodations and each one is so uniquely designed, using real imagination and quality craftsmanship.

The hotel made me feel like I was part of the building, almost a resident myself…just waiting to paint my next muse.


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United Kingdom