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They say you can never have too much of a good thing, and Waldorf Astoria seems to agree. After the success of Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, which opened in late 2010, the luxury brand has debuted its second hotel in China, the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, and broken ground on yet another property, the Waldorf Astoria Chengdu.
Opened in late February, Waldorf Astoria Beijing is conveniently located in downtown Beijing, giving guests easy access to nearby central government offices and the Wangfujing District. Unlike many of the other properties in the brand’s portfolio, the 176-room property is a brand-new structure and part of Waldorf Astoria’s evolving ambitions.
“This newbuild is a part of the evolution of the Waldorf Astoria brand,” said Marlene Poynder, general manager of Waldorf Astoria Beijing. “We still open hotels that are in old historic buildings, but more and more we are also developing new projects from the ground up.”
International guests of the hotel will appreciate that the property is a 10-minute taxi ride from the Forbidden City and a 15-minute drive from Tiananmen Square. But perhaps one of the most intriguing selling points of the Waldorf Astoria Beijing is its glistening bronze exterior.
“It was particularly ambitious to create a building totally covered in bronze,” said Poynder. “When the bronze was put on in June, it was really bright, but it will gradually start to change color over the next five years. As it ages, it will become an iconic building in an iconic location.”
The project’s architect, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, found modern design inspiration from the Forbidden City and its use of bronze throughout the site, such as the massive bronze lion statues that protect the palace’s Gate of Heavenly Purity.
Much time and thought went into the art chosen for the hotel, resulting in a collection that reflects Beijing’s modern culture while also paying tribute to its heritage. Three important pieces are housed in the hotel: one is an enormous painting of a woman’s face, which was commissioned for a corridor wall and painted by Ling Jian — a contemporary artist whose work has been exhibited globally; another is a set of painted china tea cups stationed in the front entrance of the hotel; a third piece is an antique chair deconstructed and then displayed on a suspended transparent background. This last piece, situated in the ballroom, was created by artist Shao Fan, who originally came to prominence for his deconstructed chairs.
In the late summer, the hotel will unveil accommodations inspired by hutongs (Beijing’s historic neighborhoods), which will be separate from the main hotel and will provide guests with a more secluded stay. The Waldorf Hutong Villa will feature shared alleys and courtyards like those hutongs found in Beijing. Although Beijing is famous for its collection of traditional urban homes, many have disappeared due to an increase in modern development. The Hutong Villa will pay tribute to the city’s rich history while showcasing design elements of ancient Imperial China.
The hotel hopes to lure business travelers with its exquisite art, convenient location and luxuriously appointed guestrooms.
“There has been a slight drop in business travel because of the government really cracking down on spending, so the market has changed,” said Poynder. “However, forecasts show that the American leisure segment will be coming back into China this year — ahead of the European market. We’ve seen and heard from our local operators in China that bookings out of the U.S. for 2014, from April onward, look healthy in comparison to the same time last year.”