Mint Hotel - Tower of London
Architects Bennetts Associates have created a fresh, modern design with green credentials for newly-rebranded Mint Hotel’s City of London property.
For many years, new hotel projects in the City of London were limited by planning restrictions, and a preference on the part of developers for more profitable office developments. But as the 2012 Olympics draws ever closer, the Square Mile and its immediate surroundings are seeing a plethora of new hotel launches. As reported elsewhere in this issue, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts are to take residence at Heron International’s development at 110 Bishopsgate. Apex Hotels, which has already opened two hotels in the capital’s financial district in the last five years, is to launch the Apex Temple Court off Fleet Street in 2012. And the conversion of Ten Trinity Square by architect Woods Bagot has been taken on by Singaporean group KOP and Reignwood Properties, from previous developer Thomas Enterprises.
The latter sits cheek by jowl with the City’s latest and largest new hotel opening. Mint Hotel Tower of London occupies a site on historic Pepys Street, positioned between the ancient and modern parts of London in the heart of the City. It’s already a hotel hotspot, with a Novotel and the Grange City Hotel in the immediate vicinity, as well as budget offerings from Travelodge and Premier Inn down the road. But this hotel is on a different scale to anything else in the area, with a total of 583 bedrooms. Of these, there are seven Tower View Suites, two Thames Suites and seven Courtyard suites, all offering extensive living room areas with additional dining areas and separate bedroom and bathroom spaces.
The launch of the City of London hotel has coincided with the rebranding of City Inn as Mint Hotel. The new name has been introduced in anticipation of its forthcoming first international launch, Mint Hotel Amsterdam, opening in Spring 2011. It also acknowledges the group’s evolution since originally launching as a budget-style hotel in Bristol in 1999.
David Orr, CEO, explains the new name better reflects the brand’s upmarket positioning: “We wanted to have something with a sense of freshness, something modern, punchy and memorable that would have some of the attributes of simple brand names like Apple and Orange.” The group now has seven hotels in total, with other properties in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London Westminster and Manchester. Having established an international presence in Amsterdam, it is also reported to be looking for sites in Rome and Paris.
Architects for the project were Bennetts Associates, who previously completed the City Inn Westminster (as Mint Hotel’s London debut was originally known). According to Bennetts Associates, the hotel responds to a tight island site bound by Fenchurch Street Station to the North and conservation areas to the South and West. “The prevailing urban grain of the area is tight and dense with most blocks of building defined by the medieval streets as they fan out from one of the City’s original Gates. The 1960s building which previously occupied the site was a notable exception to this by virtue of its H-shaped plan, which left large voids in the townscape on streets that could benefit from a greater sense of enclosure.”
The Mint Hotel addresses this by conforming to the original street edges and enlivening the ground level with a variety of public uses. The architectural highlight is Europe’s tallest vertical courtyard garden, which runs down the height of the building to the beautiful glass-domed atrium over the hotel’s reception and Lobby Bar.
Bennetts Associates also handled the interiors of the guestrooms, event spaces and public areas whilst Woods Bagot designed the restaurants and bars. In keeping with the new name and its pale green, leaf-shaped logo, the interiors of the hotel are as refreshing as the ice-laden mojitos served in its top floor bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows, combined with the orientation of the building, make the most of natural light. Furnishings throughout are contemporary, with natural wood and stone finishes and a muted colour scheme.
The SkyLounge has become something of a signature feature for Mint Hotel, and the Tower of London version boasts some of the city’s best meeting and event rooms as well as a destination bar with views which are amongst the finest offered by any London hotel. In one direction, it overlooks icons of the City of London skyline such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Swiss Re Tower at 30 St Mary Axe (aka ‘The Gherkin’), whilst the southern terrace looks across the medieval Tower of London towards Tower Bridge, as well as the fast emerging Shard, by Renzo Piano, in which Shangri-La Hotels will soon be taking residence. Other striking buildings such as the ‘Cheesegrater’ at 122 Leadenhall, and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ at 10 Fenchurch Street will also be visible from the SkyLounge – making the bar an appealing destination for architectural voyeurs as well as the financiers, dealmakers and entrepreneurs of the City.
From the SkyLounge, doors open on to extensive roof terraces and seating areas, lined with landscape gardens and fresh aromatic herbs, including mint, of course.
Back on the ground floor, the Fenchurch Lounge adjacent to newly pedestrianised Savage Gardens provides a stylish bar with contemporary furnishings in deep blue upholstery, wood panelled niches for privacy, and striking lighting fixtures. The City Café, led by Head Chef Jonathan Ingram overlooks Crutched Friars, and has a smart, grown up design in keeping with its menu of modern British cuisine.
The interiors are similarly crisp, clean and unthreatening in the guestrooms, where, as in other Mint Hotel properties, much attention has been paid to issues such as soundproofing, water pressure and air conditioning. The multimedia Apple iMac-based entertainment system, first trialled at City Inn Manchester, has evolved into a more sophisticated solution here, and guests can take advantage of the free WiFi throughout the hotel.
Hotel meeting facilities can often be a basement located afterthought, but here they are very much part and parcel of the hotel’s raison d’etre. In all there are four meeting areas: the Northview and Westview rooms in the SkyLounge and the Gardens and Gallery rooms on the first floor. The first floor rooms overlook the hotel’s double height atrium, all benefiting from natural light, and all have access to a wide communal break-out balcony overlooking reception. Art is just as important as business to the Mint Hotel ethos. Their Westminster hotel has enjoyed close links with the Tate Gallery, and here similar links are being forged with nearby Whitechapel Gallery, including a partnership with their curator scheme to develop an exhibition programme.As David Orr, says “The public areas of the hotel are a bit like the Roman concept of the Forum. Everyone is part of the animation and enjoyment of the building. The meeting rooms are deliberately placed in prime locations, to facilitate productive and efficient business activity as well as stunning private dining solutions. It is important that all the public spaces work together – bars, restaurants and meeting rooms.”
WORDS: Matt Turner
PHOTOGRAPHY: Courtesy of Mint Hotel