LONDON (UK) - The new W London hotel in Leicester Square by Jestico + Whiles could not be more different from its predecessor on the site, the concrete-heavy Swiss Centre by David du Rieu Aberdeen (1961–1968, see A10 #41).
The architects have wrapped this new building with an all-enveloping second skin of 'floating', frameless glass panels, which are suspended from the inner structure and skin. Contained between these two skins are a series of light fittings loaded with hundreds of energy-efficient Barco LEDs, which are used for night-time light installations. This facade gives the building an unusual lightness and ethereal quality that is reinforced by the etched patterns on the glazing, which prevent it from becoming a solid black block. By day, the glass facade of W London has such a lightness that the whole building virtually disappears.
The most unusual and interesting aspect of this building, however, is that glass has been used to evoke the cinematic heritage of the locale. The glazing creates the appearance of a floating, sheer veil and the undulating, abstract patterns etched onto the glass are reminiscent of the folds in hanging fabric. When lit up, these aspects and the curved corners of the building, give the impression of varying depths to the facade, transforming a simple glass wall into a giant theatre curtain.
In this area of entertainment and film preview parties, the light fittings between the skins enable the glass facade to also function like a vast, pixellated cinema screen. Furthermore, they give a nod of appreciation to the illuminated electronic advertisements and neon signs around the corner in Piccadilly Circus. The lights allow for movie-quality colour mixing and rendering to provide an infinite number of combinations and effects for the light displays. The glass had to be optically corrected and applied with a sophisticated ceramic frit to ensure it diffused the light across the facade as well as projected it. Since this makes the glass more opaque, it had to do this without obstructing the views from hotel bedroom windows. By night, the glass curtain becomes an animation of glowing light and colour, and possibly the biggest electronic artwork in London. (Isabelle Priest)
Facade, Glass, Light |