As a long-time admirer of Tom Dixon’s design it is very exciting to discover that Design Research Studio, the architectural interior design practice under his creative direction, is in charge of the redevelopment of Sea Container’s House into a Mondrian Hotel on the South Bank. Most of us have probably just noticed this building because of the seriously naff-looking sign which sits somewhat incongruously on top of the Warren Platner designed building, executed in a style that falls somewhere between brutalism and post modernism. American Architect Warren Platner, sadly now a forgotten genius, is probably best known for Windows on the World, the restaurant on top of the Twin Towers.

Sea Container’s House was built in the 1970’s. It was originally intended to be a luxury hotel but never made it and instead languished as an office building. The severe exterior belies the interior, full of quirky and lovely touches, which Dixon is going to incorporate into the finished design. Such as the main lobby (or ‘decompression chamber’) which will feature a giant external and internal copper-clad wall inspired by the hull of a ship, running from the outside of the building and leading guests to the entrance hall within in a suitably glamour-laden way. Building on the extensive metal finishes already present in the building, a network of brass work (brass was a Platner favourite) will run throughout the hotel, feeding out to every corner, edging each bedroom door and eventually morphing into an oversized cocktail bar.

Obviously at this stage it is too early to see finalised ideas – Mondrian London isn’t scheduled to open till 2014 – but Dixon’s charming exuberance and obvious excitement at this brief was infectious; for instance the spa, which always is a point of interest in a Morgan Group hotel, is drawing influence from the signature colours of the Morgan’s ‘Agua’ brand, the nearby Thames and decadent Roman spas of yore intending to create both a super luxurious underwater world and also the cocooning nature of a submarine. Dixon also spoke of combining American service and innovations with British quirkiness, of his intention to ensure that Mondrian London will be a celebration of Anglo-American relationships.

The Morgan Group has a track record of trusting designers who, albeit high-profile, haven’t had previous experience in doing hotels, such as Andree Putnam for Morgans Hotel and Phillipe Starck for the Royalton; in this case they were especially attracted to Dixon’s innovative approach to materials.

Words by Anna Bang

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anna bang, Mondrian London, Sea Container's House, Tom Dixon, Warren Platner,