In 2008, Ovolo Group acquired an unused factory warehouse in the Wong Chuk Hang district that was, up to recently, a rundown industrial zone on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
Six years on, the development opens its doors as Ovolo Southside
, Hong Kong’s first warehouse-to-hotel conversion. The neighbourhood itself has undergone urban revitalisation - it is now a ‘gentrified village’ complete with reclaimed heritage buildings, art galleries, restaurants and hip furnishing stores.
The Director of local architectural firm Kplusk Associates, Paul Kember, explains that the project is driven towards “retaining the building’s roots as a raw industrial space”. Inspired by the concept of a raw loft environment, the interiors feature high raw plaster ceilings, exposed services and industrial grilles amongst other touches. Kember describes the ambiance as a “schizophrenic mixture of the domestic and the utilitarian” where workmen’s tool boxes and steel workbenches sit alongside bronze mirrors and sumptuous black felt sofas in a sleek modern space.
Maintaining the building’s original structure, each of the 162 open-plan guestrooms comes in a different size and shape. They are, however, thoughtfully spaced to maximise comfort and functionality.
The tonality of the rooms is mute and warm, enlivened by a collage of natural textures from galvanised steel to woven jute, timber grain, distressed plaster, hairline stainless steel, copper, rusted steel and more. One the most challenging aspects of the project was to look for ways to resolve the ceilings, says Kember. “We spent a long time designing the ceilings so that they would be balanced and well ordered, with all the conduit work aligned and clean. The guestroom ceilings therefore are a complex but disciplined matrix of services and textures with lighting arranged to avoid glare, especially when you’re lying on the bed. It’s a curious thought but possibly true… guests spend a significant amount of time lying in bed staring at the ceiling, so why not design it carefully and elegantly?”
In the hotel, art also plays an integral role, amplifying Southside’s status as an emerging creative hub through the integration of specially commissioned work from an anthology of both local and international artists. They include Cyrcle, a Los Angeles-based duo whose custom showpiece adorns the hotel’s lifts and rooftop bar, telling a story of Hong Kong’s industrial activity and revolution. Another is The Parent’s Parents, a Hong Kong team of four who have enlivened the corridors with East-meets-West stencil work and playful messaging centred on the subject of urban renewal.
Creative works can also be displayed in the ground floor gallery space slash lobby, which comes fully kitted out with an 18-metre long projection wall and state-of-the-art sound system. Here, an original truck turntable has been retained, and now serves as a centrepiece and a rotating stage.