A Sense of Place: Combining Water and Art in Hotel Design

Ask any architect and you’ll find that one of the key aspects of their work is creating a sense of place, one that is often linked to a building’s surroundings, such as a beach, bay or other body of water.

Across Asia, Conrad Hotels & Resorts exemplify this notion, drawing inspiration from their neighboring bodies of water to inspire hotel design. These lakes, rivers and bays not only serve practical purposes for transportation to and from port cities but also factor into many Asian cultural traditions, such as China’s practice of feng shui and Japan’s deep connection to nature. Though the architects and designers vary from property to property, each has incorporated an aspect of a neighboring body of water into their project, linking the hotels’ natural settings with their modern façades and interiors.


Turbulence lobby sculpture

Rafael Barrios’ Turbulence sculpture at Conrad Centennial Singapore

In just 200 years, Singapore has transformed from a quiet colonial trading post to one of the most dynamic financial, commercial and touristic cities in the world, drawing in an astonishing 18.5 million visitors in 2018. While Singapore has undergone drastic changes throughout its history, one thing has remained constant: its connection to the water. The country comprises 63 islands surrounded by the Straits of Singapore, Johor and Malacca, and with so many bodies of water around, it should come as little surprise that Singapore—and its many buildings—have the sea in their DNA.

Built on the shores of Marina Bay, Conrad Centennial Singapore is housed in a 31-story postmodern masterpiece by legendary architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee. While the starkly geometric exterior might seem at odds with the water surrounding it, the lobby displays a clearer connection to the waves.

A spiraling chandelier descends from the ceiling, where concentric circles radiate from the light. Below it, Rafael Barrios’ Turbulence sculpture seems to dance above a similar circular pattern on the floor, which appears to be water ripples. The chandelier represents a drop of water—one of the five elements of feng shui. In fact, the entire property was designed according to feng shui principles, something a 2018 renovation by late designer Jaya Ibrahim was careful to maintain.

“Water is always an important feature of feng shui as it symbolizes wealth and prosperity,” says Conrad Centennial Singapore’s Yan Ping Mew. “The Chinese believe that there is no beginning and ending in a circle, and that water represents wealth. Hence, in feng shui terms, the hotel’s lobby will have never-ending wealth.”

Book your stay at Conrad Centennial Singapore to explore the essential feng shui principles.


Sail-shaped hotel exterior

The sail-shaped architecture of Conrad Xiamen

Established in the 14th century, Xiamen, located on an island in the Fujian province of China, is a buzzing metropolis with a lively contemporary art scene. Conrad Xiamen is set in the heart of the Siming Central Business District within the Shimao Straights Towers, a dual-skyscraper complex built in 2016 that’s become the unofficial symbol of the city. Designed by architecture firm Gensler, the towers, which serve multiple purposes, take the shape of sails in a nod to Xiamen’s history as a port city and the many boats that dot its harbor today.

“As you move along the site and view the buildings from different locations, the sails seemingly move in tune with one another, creating a variety of dynamic architectural combinations from all directions,” says Conrad Xiamen’s Jessie Huang. It’s an experience akin to what you’d see as you looked up while moving around the deck of a sailboat. “And since the building sits close to the water’s edge, the façade reflects the undulating waves,” Huang notes.

The hotel’s contemporary interiors were crafted by CCD/Cheng Chung Design, a Hong Kong-based firm who sought to blend Eastern and Western aesthetics in the spirit of Xiamen’s trading history. With the hotel situated on the 37th through 54th floors, the views of the harbor and nearby Gulangyu Island through floor-to-ceiling windows of both guest rooms and public spaces are second to none.

Soak in expansive South China Sea views when you reserve your stay at Conrad Xiamen.


Conrad Osaka lobby entrance

The bubble-like sculptures in Conrad Osaka’s lobby entrance

Osaka might be a sprawling metropolis known for its contemporary architecture, but the city has nature—more specifically, water—at its core. Known as Japan’s City of Water, the port city features a number of rivers and canals that run through it.

Located on Nakanoshima Island between the Dojima and Tosabori rivers, Conrad Osaka embraces the water. The hotel is set between the 33rd and 40th floors of the West Tower of the Nakanoshima Festival Complex, the tallest twin building development in Japan, designed by architecture firm Nikken Sekkei. From this vantage point, guests are able to take in incredible water views. The theme of water can be found throughout numerous art pieces in the hotel—there are 389 works in total—but it’s most unforgettable in the Atmos Dining restaurant, which features a series of ceiling sculptures that resemble ripples.

Dine beneath architectural bubbles and ripples when you stay at Conrad Osaka.


Conrad Beijing hotel exterior

An up-close look at Conrad Beijing’s exterior facade

Beijing may be landlocked, but there’s still plenty of water. Not only do a number of rivers flow through China’s capital, but urban lakes are plentiful—and a welcome respite from the rigid architecture found throughout Beijing’s nearly 6,500 square miles. In fact, it’s this dichotomy between nature and man that inspired Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects, to design Conrad Beijing. Whereas most architecture in the city is boxy, gray and imposing, Yansong wanted to connect this tower with neighboring Tuanjiehu Park, which features an island surrounded by a ring-shaped lake. Tuanjiehu translates into “Lake of Unity,” which couldn’t suit Ma’s vision more perfectly.

Discover the infinite river connections when you stay at Conrad Beijing.


Conrad Seoul swimming pool

Reflections in Conrad Seoul’s swimming pool

The mighty Han River is not only important to the history of Seoul but to the broader history of Korea—its 319 miles have been used for transportation between the Yellow Sea and the interior of the peninsula for some 2,000 years. Within the city itself, it’s a hub for activities from leisure cruises to fishing.

On its shores sits Conrad Seoul, one of five towers in the International Finance Centre complex on Yeouido Island. The complex was designed by Miami-based firm Arquitectonica. Conrad Seoul is a 38-story hotel, and while its guest rooms don’t overtly nod to the Han River, they have large windows that perfectly frame it as if it were a work of art.

Book your stay at Conrad Seoul to explore the mighty Han River.


Conrad Manila hotel exterior

The exterior of Conrad Manila, located along the Manila Bay

Looking out onto the bay from any vantage point in Manila, you’ll likely see ships. The capital of the Philippines is also home to the country’s largest seaport, so Manila Bay is frequently lined with cargo vessels, pleasure boats and even cruise ships. The traffic on the waterway served as an inspiration for Singapore-based WOW Architects who designed the building housing the first Conrad property in the country. Part of the SM Mall of Asia complex in Pasay, the multi-use LEED Gold certified structure is designed to look like a ship with long, horizontal lines defining its low-slung profile. Conrad Manila takes up the top eight floors, with a luxury mall on the first two floors.

Even when you walk inside, the hotel is all about the view of the bay. “Complementing its iconic exterior, Conrad Manila’s interiors draw inspiration from the warmth and serenity of Manila Bay’s waters,” says Conrad Manila’s Angel Velasco. “The welcome and main lobbies located on the ground and third floors exude a contemporary ambiance with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide guests with an unperturbed view of the bay and its captivating sunsets.”

In addition to the vistas, there are more subtle nods to Conrad Manila’s setting—the third-floor pool takes a shape inspired by coral, celebrating the tropical seas of the Philippines. There’s also a 737-piece art collection by Filipino artists, many of which are inspired by water.

Experience the warmth of the Manila Bay when you reserve your stay at Conrad Manila.

For even more inspiring architecture around the globe, book your stay with Conrad Hotels & Resorts.


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