Six Senses to Debut London in a Former Art Deco Department Store

Main Photo: Whiteleys department store as imagined in re-opening in 2023

Date: January 2020

Location: Bayswater, London, UK

Name: Six Senses London – opening 2023

No. of Keys: 110 rooms and suites

Seller: Whiteleys takes its name from visionary entrepreneur, William Whiteley, who opened his first drapery shop in Westbourne Grove in 1863. A little over a decade later, the shop had grown to a department store described as “an immense symposium of the arts and industries of the nation and of the world”. Once a vibrant destination that formed the focus for the surrounding residential neighbourhood, Whiteleys was then redeveloped in the 1980s into a shopping centre with a cinema and bowling alley. It subsequently closed its doors in December 2018 as its popularity diminished.

Property entrepreneur Johnny Sandelson, with backing from the Sultan of Brunei, quietly amassed an eight-acre private estate in Queensway, W2, for a major regeneration play, in September 2017.

Sandelson has orchestrated the extraordinary off-market land grab over the past nine months using funds from a consortium of investors led by the private family office of the Sultan of Brunei and including Meyer Bergman.

Sandelson’s estate is anchored by two major acquisitions: the Grade II listed 300,000 sq ft Whiteleys shopping centre from Standard Life Investments for circa £120m and the Queens-way Estate on the edge of Hyde Park from Robert Bourne’s group, Bourne Capital, for an additional £100m.

Buyer: The redevelopment of Whiteleys is headed by a Meyer Bergman-advised fund, with the pre-eminent residential real estate developer Finchatton as development manager. In collaboration with the British architectural firm, Foster + Partners, renowned for its eco credentials and responsible design approach, this historic landmark will become a sensitively restored mixed-use development. The original Grade II façade, central courtyard and dome will all be preserved, as will the majestic internal staircase (modelled on the La Scala opera house in Milan), which features as the centre-piece on the ground floor of the hotel.

The hotel, wellness club and spa mark the brand’s entry into the UK and will open with 110 guest rooms and suites, starting from 355 square feet (33 square meters) and celebrating the building’s origins, while making space for modern living. There will also be 14 branded residences, with owners able to tap into all the privileges that come with a Six Senses home, including bespoke interior design, concierge service, dining, housekeeping and wellness programming.

Inspired by the building’s origins, the interiors of Six Senses London are designed by internationally celebrated AvroKO in conjunction with executive architects EPR, and combine nostalgic nods to classical detailing and art deco along with modern streamlining. To add a touch of local culture to the preserved Great Exhibition mood, contemporary art from British artists will be showcased throughout the hotel.

The Six Senses brand philosophy of connection to people and nature is central to the convivial and biophilic tone of the ground floor. It features a cosy lobby bar and lounge (for talking to friends or the plants), all-day dining restaurant with an open kitchen and seating area in the courtyard. Much of the lobby’s character derives from its verdant, elegant and eclectic style. Imaginative planting, textured fabrics, bespoke flooring, reclaimed wood furniture and upholstery in natural tones with glass display cabinets flanking its walls cleverly bring about cosiness in 14,000 square feet (1,300 square meters) of public space which encourages guests to socialise, eat, play or simply be.

Chief Executive Officer, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Neil Jacobs, said: “I feel nostalgic when talking about Whiteleys. I grew up in the neighbourhood and my parents used to bring me here. It is a wonderful opportunity to pay homage to this heritage and bring our brand values to life in this part of town, while celebrating our first port of call for Six Senses in the UK.”

In today’s hyper-connected world and stressed lifestyle, Six Senses Spa will play an integral part in the hotel’s offering. In a space reminiscent of an old-fashioned London underground station, the spa journey will mirror the different energies of the city life, from the sensory stimulation and movement of the street to the stillness and calm of a quiet café or park. In this way, lively and vibrant areas flow into more serene and silent ones to offer energising and restorative sensations; a perfectly balanced environment in which to achieve overall well-being. Highlights include 3,500 square feet (325 square meters) dedicated to fitness, a 65-foot (20-meter) indoor swimming pool, an Alchemy Bar and a relaxation room with vaulted ceilings.

On the second floor, residents and members will access a new kind of social and wellness club. Away from the density and intensity of the city, this space will feature a central bar and lounge, co-working spaces, a restaurant and wellness rooms, and offer pioneering programming to encourage growth, reflection and reconnection.

Marcus Meijer, chief executive officer of Meyer Bergman, commented: “We are very excited to announce the agreement with Six Senses. It’s a key element in the transformation of Whiteleys as well as the wider Queensway regeneration plan. The Six Senses brand stands for luxury, design, wellness and sustainability, values that form the keystone of our vision for this vibrant part of London.”

Finchatton Co-founder Alex Michelin said: “Six Senses London will be a first, not only having best-in-class spa and amenities, but also a new kind of social and wellness club unlike anything we have seen in London or for that matter, in a new development. We identified Six Senses as the ideal partner for the Whiteleys redevelopment with wellness at its core and also experiential pioneering programs. These are things which will be at the heart of the new Whiteleys offer and we look forward to creating something really incredible together.”

With unrivalled experience in delivering intelligent and inspiring urban solutions, Meyer Bergman is a privately-owned real estate investment management firm with a portfolio of real estate projects across Europe and the US. London head-quartered Finchatton specialises in creating bespoke homes for the world’s most discerning clientele around the world.

THPT Comment: Biophilic? – no we didn’t know the word either! “Biophilic design is a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions.” Great to see Six Senses debut in London…and the great-looking building to become re-used in a way that William Whiteley could not have envisaged back in 1863!

First Seen: IHG website

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