No-one passing The Beaumont hotel in London could fail to notice the extraordinary robot-like shape squatting at one end of the otherwise unremarkable art deco façade. Like a cubist colossus, the
structure sits on the low-level roof of a wing of the
hotel, daring passers-by to challenge its presence.
It comes as no surprise to find that this is an
‘experiential work of art’ commissioned from Turner
Prize-winning sculptor Antony Gormley. The massive,
modular piece, made of stainless steel and fumed oak,
juts out from a façade that is otherwise a model of
harmony and restraint.
Contemplating its function from the outside, the word
‘bedroom’ probably does not come to mind. But that is
exactly what it is. Contained inside those shiny blocks
is the most unusual sleeping space in London.
The Beaumont is the first hotel by Corbin & King,
the London restaurateurs behind The Wolseley,
The Delaunay, and a number of other well-known
restaurants in the capital. A luxury five-star Mayfair
hotel, with 50 rooms, 13 studios and 10 suites,
The Beaumont occupies a historic 1926 building
overlooking Brown Hart Gardens. Gormley’s singular
extension owes its existence to the City of Westminster’s
insistence that every new construction include a piece
of public art.
The artwork, known simply as ‘Room’, is actually part
of a suite. There is a sitting room with abstract art on
the walls and a bathroom finished in white marble.
It’s all stylish enough, but the magic is at the top of
the stairs, behind a black curtain. Here, at the heart of
the crouching man, is a darkened space occupied by a
single piece of furniture – a bed, gleaming white like
Above the bed is a void lined with interlocking wooden
panels. The geometric contours of the interior are
gradually revealed by an almost ethereal light, giving
form to the darkness.
Gormley explains: ‘I take the body as our primary
habitat. Room contrasts a visible exterior of a body
formed from large rectangular masses with an inner
experience. The interior of Room is only four metres
square but 10 metres high: close at body level, but lofty
and open above.
‘Shutters over the window provide total blackout
and very subliminal levels of light allow me to sculpt
darkness itself. My ambition for this work is that
it should confront the monumental with the most
personal, intimate experience.’
Lighting designers IlluminationWorks achieved the
effect using linear lighting built into the bed and
sitting in niches, with two LED projectors lighting the
rectangular shape of the bed. No light is allowed to
spill on to the dark floor.
The reflected light from the white bedding is the only
visible light source in the otherwise black environment.
At first, the LEDs would not dim enough for the subtle
lighting effect Gormley wanted, so neutral density
filters were installed to reduce the light level further
than the dimming system would allow.
It is a striking piece of theatre inside a building that
recalls the pre-war elegance of Mayfair. The design
of the rooms and suites in a soft art deco style evokes
the golden age of personalised hospitality. Nearly all
the guest rooms and suites have a unique floorplan
because of the age of the building.
IlluminationWorks had to create a lighting scheme
that was sympathetic to the 1920s ambience while
providing the comfort and sophistication that guests
expect when they visit a contemporary luxury hotel.
It was important that the specified light levels were
achieved and colour temperatures matched from
room to room. Only modern sources such as LEDs
could deliver the requisite lighting uniformity and
The primary challenge was to blend the discreet
detailing of the opulent public spaces with the more
functional lighting required in the guest rooms.
IlluminationWorks worked with the architects to
develop variations to the lighting concept that took
account of the lower ceilings of the top floor and the
more spacious design of the suites.
Overall, a single cohesive visual mood was required,
with no sense of disconnect between the different
types of space.
Coves are a feature of many art deco-period schemes,
so cove lighting with LEDs was the natural choice
throughout the hotel and serves as a unifying design
element. It also limited the need for other modern
light sources in both the public areas and in the guest
rooms. Other lighting was detailed into furniture
pieces or derived from the many period light fittings
throughout the hotel.
As with all heritage projects, there were limitations.
Recessed downlights could not be used in any of the
public areas, for example. Illumination Works specified
miniature surface-mounted adjustable spotlights to
highlight art in the lobby, light the tables in the bar and
restaurant, and provide illumination in circulation
areas in the spa.
But at the end of the day, none of The Beaumont
hotel’s most tasteful suites is likely to match the
sensation of a night spent inside Antony Gormley’s
heart of darkness.
The giant robot isn’t just a public
artwork, it is also a bedroom
for one of the hotel’s suites. Its
interior (overleaf) is dimly lit