The latest addition to Hong Kong’s congregation of luxury hotels is not a newcomer but a convert. The Murray opened earlier this year inside the shell of a former British government building, one of the most visually striking structures in the crowded skyline nestled between Hong Kong Peak and Victoria Harbor. The Murray owes much of its panache to two distinctive details designed by original architect Ron Phillips: its windows, recessed at an angle to dodge direct sunlight (an early, ingenious example of sustainable design), and the two-story arches at its base, which lend the midcentury modern masterpiece a classical grandeur.
When it was erected, in 1969, the 26-story Murray Building was the tallest edifice in the city; today, it is dwarfed by its neighbors, including Lord Norman Foster’s hulking, Blade Runner-ish HSBC tower. As it happens, Foster’s firm was tasked with the transformation of the hotel’s interiors, which comprise 336 rooms, four restaurants, and a ground-level bar. (The lemongrass gin and tonic is a must.) With its gold and grayscale palette, the Murray’s elegantly restrained decor is as soothing as Foster’s nearby tower is imposing. Looking up at the surrounding giants from the Murray’s swank rooftop, one gets a feeling of relative intimacy. Likewise, the proximity to Hong Kong Park makes it easy to forget you’re in one of the most densely populated cities on earth.
“We always wanted to create a dialogue between the old and the new,” says architect Colin Ward of Foster + Partners, “ a building that is familiar but has been given a new lease on life.” The adaptive reuse of the Murray is part of an urban preservation effort called Conserving Central. Almost none of the Murray Building’s guts were kept. But the architects were able to accommodate one of the property’s original residents: a hundred-year-old apple blossom tree. Gnarled, stooped, and tied down against typhoon winds, it stands placidly among cosmopolitan diners, a silent repository of memories of old Hong Kong. Rooms from $460.