How a young design team is in-tune with a global heavyweight’s next generation brand, Zara Horner reports.

Hirsch Bedner Associates

Global hospitality interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) is no stranger to the pages of hospitality industry publications.

Having worked on some of the world’s “most anticipated” – as they term it – hotels, resorts, casinos and spas the award-winning company has forged a solid reputation, with more than 1,500 designers in 23 offices and a recent expansion in several locations in Asia.

So assigning a young team to one of its biggest and most well-known clients might be termed a bit of a gamble.

Add value, raise standards and enhance brand

“Since 1965 HBA remains keenly attuned to the pulse of changing industry trends governed by today’s sophisticated traveller. The company’s depth of experience, and detailed industry knowledge enables [us] to identify interior design trends at their source, make definitive predictions about new directions and innovations, and influence design standards at a global level,” they say.

With an ultimate objective to “add value, raise standards and enhance brand”, the young Studio HBA team, which specialises in mid-market hotels, was assigned the job to style Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ new lifestyle hotel for “trendy tech-savvy millennials” in Guangzhou.


Neighbouring Citic Plaza in the southern manufacturing powerhouse, Aloft Guangzhou University Park is the largest property so far in the booming brand for ‘next generation’ travellers, with 498 rooms.

‘Next Generation’ travellers

Promising young millennials “affordable, comfortable loft-inspired rooms and design-savvy spaces with a vibrant social scene,” the Aloft brand has more than a hundred hotels in 18 countries worldwide.

Completed in 2016 for owner developers Tianyu Group, the design brief for Aloft Guangzhou University Park extended throughout interiors, from public areas and a 24-hour gym to conference venues, library, office lobby, business centre, executive lounge and signature restaurants and bars including, WYZ(SM) Bar, 24-hour snack bar Re:fuel by Aloft, international all-day dining venue Nook Restaurant and a Chinese restaurant, Yunshan Poetry.

While inspiration came from the geometrical elements of the city’s traditional Xiguan residences of wealthy traders near the old walled city, overall design was intune with the Aloft brand – “dynamic and fresh.”

Guestrooms have been styled with “sophistication and state-of-the-art technology [and] evoke innovation through the use of engaging colour palettes, richly textured carpets and accented furniture. Hues of calming blues, purple and greens mixed with tones of golden beige add unexpected dashes of colour that stimulate the senses,” says Studio HBA partner and principal Leo Ying Li.

The arrival experience is designed to be “interactive and inspirational,” with plenty of open spaces and some surprising, unconventional modern features to catch the eye.

In short, Aloft Guangzhou University Park “blends design, style, and technology providing a forward-thinking alternative for the savvy traveller,” Li says.

Aloft Guangzhou University Park, Guangzhou, Lobby.


Designing for modern urban culture while taking 3,000 years of history into account is no mean feat. Here’s how one design has achieved it.


The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts

The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts is now part of Marriott International, but started life in 1906 under the Ciga brand – a collection of Europe’s “most celebrated and iconic properties”.

Today The Luxury Collection brand recently surpassed 100 in number in more than 30 countries, many of them housed in centuries old properties. Each hotel and resort is “a unique and cherished expression of its location; a portal to the destination’s indigenous charms and treasures,” says Meredith Dichter, global brand director, The Luxury Collection.

The Meixi Lake Hotel blending history with modern urban culture

The Meixi Lake Hotel is the latest Luxury Collection Hotel and a first for the city of Changsha, in China’s burgeoning Hunan region.

“The opening of The Meixi Lake Hotel is a momentous occasion for the brand, as we continue to strengthen [our] presence in China,” Dichter says.

The Meixi Lake Hotel is “an oasis of sophisticated hospitality, seamlessly blending 3,000 years of history with modern urban culture and commerce. With an ideal setting in the midst of the dynamic Meixi Lake Zone – a new area for business, retail and entertainment – the 52-story landmark tower is situated next to The Mall of Splendors, Changsha’s new retail destination which overlooks the Zaha Hadid-designed Meixi Lake International Culture & Arts Center,” Dichter points out.

Eddie Tang, is general manager of the hotel and says, “We are looking forward to welcoming visitors from around the globe, offering them an indigenous travel experience in this energetic, multifaceted city.”


The hotel’s design is inspired by the famous poem Journey to the Immortal Peach Garden by Tao Yuanming, a seminal piece of Chinese utopian literature about a local fisherman who travels upstream and discovers a hidden paradise behind a grove of blossoming peach trees. Artistic elements and interior design echo the tranquillity and beauty of Tao’s secret utopian grove.

“From textured walls to recessed lighting to lush carpet each area creates a transitional space,” Tang says. Exterior architecture was done by Callison RTKL, with interiors designed by HBA and all dining venues designed by Rockwell Group.

The Meixi Lake Hotel features 310 guest rooms, including six suites and a 3,000 square-foot presidential suite. All guests enjoy views of the Yuelu Mountain and the Meixi Lake from their rooms.

“We are thrilled to launch the eighth hotel within The Luxury Collection Hotel & Resorts brand in Greater China, and this opening also marks Marriott International’s first-ever luxury hotel in this historical city,” says Stephen Ho, CEO, Greater China, Marriott International. He adds, “the opening reflects the heightened demand for experiential luxury travel.”