MORPHEUS, MACAU, CHINA
The flagship building in a new leisure complex within the heart of Macau is the Morpheus, a feat of clever architecture and engineering wizardry designed by the great late Zaha Hadid. Features Editor Sophie Harper takes a look at the colossal building’s structure in the landscape of the self-proclaimed City of Dreams.
Melco Resorts and Entertainment’s City of Dreams on the Cotai Strip in Macau, China, opened the doors to its latest development, The Morpheus, in June this year unveiling one of the world’s most striking and unique pieces of architecture. At the heart of the integrated resort, which includes a casino, two theatres, a shopping district, 20 restaurants, and four hotels, the Morpheus sits among renowned hotel brands including the Grand Hyatt and Dragone. Standing at 160m-high, the 40-storey building, which consists of two internal vertical circulation cores connected at podium and roof levels, houses 770 guest rooms, suites, and villas, and includes civic spaces, meeting and event facilities, gaming rooms, lobby atrium, restaurants, spa, and rooftop pool. But what makes it so unique is its beautifully woven exoskeleton and the fact that it’s the first tower in the world to use a free-form external skeleton to support its huge structure.
Zaha Hadid Architects was commissioned to build the hotel in 2012, making it one of the last projects designed by Zaha Hadid herself. After her death in 2016, the project was finished by her architecture firm, with Viviana Muscettola taking over the role of project director. Building works began on the site using the existing foundations for a condominium tower that didn’t progress beyond ground level. 28,000 tons of steel were used to construct the supportive exoskeleton and all the hotel’s exterior panel fabrication was procured locally to make use of local expertise and equipment.
The shaping of the building’s skeleton was inspired by the fluid forms within China’s traditional jade carving, giving the Morpheus a combination of dramatic public spaces and generous guestrooms with innovative engineering and formal cohesion. Conceived as a vertical extrusion of its rectangular footprint, a series of voids is carved through its centre to create a connection between the hotel’s interior communal spaces and the city. The exoskeleton leaves an impression on the interiors as well as the exterior by creating spaces that are uninterrupted by supporting walls or columns.
On entering the building from ground level, an all-white lobby area is divided with reception on one side and a partially enclosed lounge area on the other, distinguished by a spacey geometric steel frame. Panoramic bullet lifts set against a transparent red glaze draw the eye up to the impressive 35-metre-high atrium, which fills the lobby with natural light. The flooring is made of clean, white marble with yellow stone inlays laid out in a flowing geometric pattern intrinsic with Zaha Hadid design and in keeping with the rest of the building’s features. The atrium is surrounded by triangular metallic panels with light boxes that were created specifically to follow the unique shapes and forms of the wall by lighting designer Isometrix. Each light box is controlled by an individual DMX control-dimmer channel, which means the lighting can be programmed to change at different times of the day, creating an experiential ambience.
The west side of the atrium features a café area with a pavilion assembled from bespoke modular aluminium components, and a series of futuristic bridges connect the interior spaces to create unique spaces for the hotel’s restaurants, bars, and guest lounges by renowned chefs including Alain Ducasse and Pierre Hermé. On the 40th floor is the hotel’s rooftop pool, surrounded by the building’s exoskeleton, which casts unique shading over the whole area. The spa area is just as unique as the rest of the Morpheus, which features a snow garden complete with real snow.
Interior design for the guestrooms is by California-based design studio Peter Remedios, taking inspiration from super-yachts to create luxurious spaces fitted with premium materials, elegant custom décor, and bespoke furnishings. Heated floors offer a higher standard of comfort with generous sofas and armchairs adorning living areas and en-suites including indulgent bathtubs, rain showers, and automatic Japanese toilets. The best seats in the house come in the form of the six duplex villas on the building’s upper floors. Designed as stylish penthouses, the villas feature dark tones, reflective surfaces, and large floor-to-ceiling windows offering unobstructed views of Macau. Each is framed by black stainless steel and comes with a full range of the hotel’s most exclusive amenities including fully equipped kitchens, private massage and exercise rooms, and an internal elevator to take occupiers between floors.
Pool villas are located on the top floor of the Morpheus, where lavishness comes into its own – the pools being private and incorporated to the interior design of each. At 510-square-metres, these villas are an extravagant playground for those who can afford it. Offering natural light, a palette of beige stone flooring, and carefully selected wood finishes, the sophisticated design in these villas does a fantastic job of emulating the experience of sailing on a mega-yacht. The pièce de résistance – the central private pool – is surrounded by lounge and dining areas, which again include custom-designed furniture including an exceptionally grand 7-metre sofa, because who doesn’t need one of those in their hotel suite? The remaining rooms all carry the same theme in their design, with guests being treated to spectacular panoramas across the city, luxury bed linen, and 21st-century tech – you won’t find any buttons or switches here, everything is controlled by iPad, from the curtains to the minibar.
The aim for Zaha Hadid Architects was to create something new and original for the city, which represented the future of buildings to help set Macau apart from other popular high-end travel destinations. As the most impressive building in the region, drawing on Hadid’s unmistakable penchant for free-flowing architectural form, I think that’s exactly what’s been achieved with the Morpheus – and what a legacy to leave the world of architecture with.