Fluid exoskeleton and swirling voids create a unique architectural expression

A vanguard of architectural design, the Morpheus Hotel by Zaha Hadid Architects is the five-star centre piece of Macau’s City of Dreams resort

A fluid ‘net’ of structural beams forms the architecture, building, city, commercial building, condominium, corporate headquarters, daytime, headquarters, landmark, metropolis, metropolitan area, mixed use, sky, skyscraper, tower, tower block, teal, gray
A fluid ‘net’ of structural beams forms the exoskeleton of the sculptural Morpheus Hotel in Macau by Zaha Hadid Architects. Three organic voids create drama and connect hotel guests with the wider setting.

What to do when you want to break with alocation’s tradition of copycat architecture? One bold way forward is to create a new design language.

Melco Resorts & Entertainment commissioned Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) to design Morpheus as the fifth hotel in its City of Dreams resort development on tourist and gambling mecca Macau.

In modern interpretations of Greek mythology, Morpheus is referred to as the god of dreams or sleep. Melco wanted Morpheus to be designed to ‘satisfy the dreams of luxury international travellers’.

In response, the high-end, five-star hotel itself looks like a dream of surreal architectural splendour.

Historically, Macau buildings have referenced architecture styles from around the world. Morpheus, however, has evolved from its unique environment and site conditions as a new architecture expressly of the city, says ZHA’s project director Viviana Muscettola.

Linked at ground level with the surrounding three-storey podium of the City of Dreams resort, Morpheus houses a lobby atrium, and 772 guest rooms, suites and sky villas. Public amenities include civic spaces, meeting and event facilities, gaming rooms, restaurants, a spa and rooftop pool.

Net outcome – sculptural voids punctuate the Morpheus architecture, building, daylighting, line, material, metal, metropolis, pattern, structure, symmetry, white, gray, black
Net outcome – sculptural voids punctuate the Morpheus Hotel in Macau designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

When ZHA began working on the feasibility study for Morpheus in 2012, the foundations of a stalled project were already in place and three sides of the site was enclosed by construction, including the high rise resort hotel to the west. To the north was a six lane highway.

“Vertical extrusion seemed logical as it addressed the two constraint sets: the restricted footprint and the dense, varied programme. This strategy also allowed Morpheus to be designed as a single volume with a fluid exoskeleton,” says Muscettola.

Within this form, two internal vertical circulation cores, or towers, are connected horizontally at podium and roof level, where dense accommodation was required. This generated a simple block, maximising the development envelope, with radiused edges, its height limited by a 160m aviation zone restriction.

Glass elevators rise behind the faceted reception desk chair, floor, flooring, furniture, table, window, gray, black
Glass elevators rise behind the faceted reception desk at the Morpheus Hotel by Zaha Hadid Architects.

“The block was then punctuated with three diversely shaped voids, forming vortex-like urban windows that define the dramatic internal public spaces and create unique corner suites with spectacular views of both the atrium and the city.”

This architectural arrangement maximises the number of hotel rooms with external views and guarantees an equal room distribution on both sides of the building.

Running through the voids, a series of bridges create unique spaces for restaurants, bars and guest lounges. In addition, 12 glass elevators provide guests with arresting views of Morpheus’ interiors and exterior as they travel skywards up the two internal towers.

Morpheus’ interior spaces called for a high degree of adaptability to accommodate the varying spacial needs of its guest amenities. The hotel’s exoskeleton helped with this by creating generous, flexible interior spaces that are uninterrupted by supporting walls or columns.

“This sculptural form has an intriguing, mysterious allure because it makes no reference to traditional architectural typologies,” says the project director. “An alternative interpretation would be to see it as a gyrating abstraction of a triumphal arch or the west front of Notre-Dame de Paris – both emphatic portals, like Morpheus.”

The arresting L21 Chinese restaurant sits in one architecture, building, daylighting, sky, structure, tourist attraction, black
The arresting L21 Chinese restaurant sits in one of the bridges that link Morpheus Hotel’s two internal towers.

And environmental engineering was naturally intrinsic to the sophisticated building. Solar gain is minimised by high performance glazing while the hotel’s exoskeleton provides additional screening from the sun. Plus, only zones used by guests and staff, such as lobbies, bridges and restaurants are served by air conditioning, not the atrium’s middle zones.

In addition, Melco Resorts specified long-life materials throughout to limit requirements for maintenance and replacement. The hotel’s exterior panel fabrication was procured locally, reducing transportation needs and making use of local skills and equipment.

Additional active solutions were implemented to increase energy efficiencies, including the air handling units with high efficiency variable speed water-cooled chillers and thermal wheel energy exchangers to recover energy from exhaust air. A water-to-water heat pump pre-heats domestic water, while the intelligent building management system responds in real time to usage and environmental conditions to minimise energy consumption.

Lawrence Ho, chairman and CEO of Melco Resorts says that from the beginning, Melco shared ZHA’s vision and drive to push boundaries.

“Morpheus offers a journey of the imagination – from the curved exterior to the dramatic interior spaces, it pleases the eye and excites the senses.”

Credit list

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA); project directors – Viviana Muscettola, Michele Pasca di Magliano
Local architect
CAA City Planning & Engineering Consultants, Macau
Structural engineering
Buro Happold International
Fire engineering
Facade contractor
Interior contractor – Lobby, Porte Cochere, atrium feature wall
Pat Davie
Acoustic consultant
Shen Milson & Wilke, Hong Kong
Lobby, Porte Cochere, atrium feature wall
Melco Resorts & Entertainment
Quantity surveyor
WT Partnership
Mechanical and electrical engineering
J Roger Preston
Facade engineering
Buro Happold International
Freeform exoskeleton cladding design
Lighting design
Traffic engineer
MVA Hong Kong

Story by: Charles Moxham

Photography by: Ivan Dupont, Virgile Simon Bertrand

18 Oct, 2018

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