In the 1930s, while the rest of the world was battling the depression and war, Shanghai was experiencing its golden age. It was then that Victor Sassoon built the Cathay Hotel in Art Deco style to represent the “excitement, glamour and promise of the machine age.” With guests such as Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw, this hotel was home to many historic moments.
Below: Images of the old Cathay Hotel
In 2007 architects Hirsch Bedner and Associates, under the leadership of Ian Carr, were retained to renovate Cathay Hotel, now called the Fairmont Peace Hotel. The team found it challenging to preserve original details, as many of the original blueprints were missing and everything from furnishings to faucets had disappeared after several botched renovations. They literally peeled layers of plastics and paint to go back in time.
What’s most fascinating about Carr’s team is that they didn’t leave it to a surface level re-interpretation. To re-create a true Art Deco feel for the building, the restorers found inspiration in letters sent to the hotel over the years. The letters helped them understand the people, the Shanghainese culture, and what the hotel was all about.
One of the fundamental practices that my partner, Paul, and I have instilled at CO-OP is to dig deeper to find the truth. The truth is never on the surface level, but if you look hard enough, you’re sure to find it. Ian Carr’s team took inspiration from the old architectural details and from the letters – a balance of what we refer to as the rational and the emotional. The old blue prints and other physical intricacies helped bring back the structural details while the letters helped re-create the soul of the hotel.
Thanks Hirsch Bedner and Associates for digging deep.
Images of Fairmont Peace Hotel after it’s Renovation:
Sources: Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fairmont Peace Hotel, My Living, Telegraph, 2point6billion