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‘The client pushed for more concrete’: Ben Adams’ Nobu Hotel Shoreditch

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The most recent addition Nobu’s international offering of hotels and restaurants has opened in Shoreditch

The scheme, which includes hotel rooms, a restaurant and lettable event spaces, was originally granted planning permission in 2012, based on a design completed by Ron Arad Architects in 2011 featuring overhanging floor slabs and a ‘frayed’ edge to the east. When Ron Arad Architects left the project in 2013, Ben Adams was appointed by Willow Corp to develop the design and complete the project.

Occupying a site on the quiet Willow Street in Shoreditch, a long, tapering site boundary has been dealt with using an orthogonal series of rooms, leaving a thin strip of space for landscaping and planting. To the east, the edge appears raw and unfinished with protruding steel beams and stepped balconies for larger suites overlooking a new ‘pocket square’. 

Nw ben adams nobu ii 36

Nw ben adams nobu ii 36

Alternating glass and thin concrete panels define the façade, lent a strong horizontality by the slightly protruding floorplates, while moving internally bronze portal frames, dark and charred wood and raw concrete blocks characterise spaces.

Drawing light into the thin space required extensive glazing, and so bedrooms feature sliding privacy screens. The restaurant sits deep in the basement 7 metres below, opening on to a garden that doubles as a lightwell. 

Architect’s view

A new hotel for an international brand like Nobu in a part of London like Shoreditch might seem like a good fit at the end of 2017, but when we first started discussing this project in the middle of 2013 we wondered how to marry up a hotel and restaurant celebrated for exquisite Japanese food with the vigorous street life of one of London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.

We decided that concrete is the ideal material to cross such boundaries, as it can be refined into something delicate and sophisticated or poured into basic moulds to help buildings stand up. When making design decisions our client Meir Abutbul advocated ‘more concrete’ more than once, and so our brief was set. We ended up with five distinct kinds of concrete, from the exposed post-tensioned slabs that form the primary structure of the building, to the slender glass reinforced panels that make up the solid parts of the elevation.

Long section

Long section

Long section

In formal terms we have a simple cuboid that lines the street and peels away at its northern end as the site taper reveals the parallel grid of hotel rooms behind the façade. Concrete fins reveal this taper and create privacy for hotel rooms at the quieter end of the street. The southern end is an explosion of balconies, hotel suites, public space and a seven-metre drop into the restaurant courtyard below. The very southern end of the building cants back to respect local right to light, and gives form to the unique size and layout of each suite at this end.

Ben Adams, founding director, Ben Adams Architects

Nw ben adams nobu ii 65

Nw ben adams nobu ii 65

Project data

Project value £30 million
Funding Private
Tender date March 2014
Start on site May 2014
Completed September 2017
Size 148 bedrooms, 9,000m² GEA
Form of contract JCT standard form, Design and Build
Client Willow Corp SARL
Architect Ben Adams Architects
Concept architect Ron Arad Architects
Interior designer (hotel) Studiomica
Interior designer (restaurant) STUDIO PCH
Contractor MTD Contractors 
M&E consultant Elkoms Consulting
Structural engineer Walsh Associates
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Landscape consultant FFLO
Acoustics Acustica
Project manager GVA second London Wall
CDM coordinator Orsa
Building inspector The Building Inspectors
Main contractor MTD Contractors
CAD software used MicroStation

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Readers' comments (1)

  • How very thoughtless and silly, unless there's some meaningful 'statement' that transcends the naff appearance.
    For raw and unfinished' read smashed up and patched up - someone secretly dreaming of a bomb in the street? - so good for 'the vigorous street life of one of London's most vibrant neighbourhoods' - Ron Arad and Ben Adams should be careful what they wish for, and perhaps the planners should be a touch less indulgent..

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