Fusion Fest

Piero Lissoni’s vision for The Middle House unites Asian materiality and European architecture.

There’s nothing average about The Middle House. The giant chandelier in the 111-room hotel’s (excluding its residences) lobby is just the first hint that Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni is thinking in macro terms for the Shanghai hotspot, part of a city-center mixed-use development (yes, the location gave the hotel its deceptively median name).

The Middle House | Swire Hotels | Piero Lissoni

All photos: Courtesy of Swire Hotels

Sure, it helps that Swire Hotels, the owner/operator behind the House Collective (other properties include The Opposite House, Beijing; Temple House, Chengdu; and The Upper House, Hong Kong), has a penchant for high-octane, provocative design. But, even self-confessed architect/designer-driven brands need to find a fresh offer within their own niche. That’s why Lissoni knew he had to draw on his own experiences, outlook and vision, rather than try to add a fourth chapter in Swire’s narrative. So, he started his vision board halfway around the world.

The Middle House | Swire Hotels | Piero Lissoni

“As a European, I organized the space in a different way,” he says.  Lissoni imported the concept of intimate seating groups, low sight lines and informal lobby layouts. Café Gray Deluxe’s volume is divided by hard-edged partial walls, while Studio 50 (the smallest of the hotel’s six room types) guestrooms’ seating areas face the bed in a conversation zone.

The Middle House | Swire Hotels | Piero Lissoni

Even the most cosmopolitan style still needs a local grounding. Lissoni says he wants to make sure guests know they’re in Shanghai. Having brought his continental perspective to the flow of the hotel, he turned to a modern version of typically Chinese materials for that grounding. Porcelain and ceramic cladding, used on expansive surfaces rather than in accents, provides a chic, visually cool balance to the interactive floorplans. Think a jet-black, gleaming bar wall, or glazed bathroom partitions.

The Middle House | Swire Hotels | Piero Lissoni

Lissoni’s final touch to unite his two disparate influences is the use of light. Louvers on the outside of the building give the illumination within a geometric structure that resembles many traditional Asian buildings, but, in guest bathrooms, evokes a playful stripe pattern more reminiscent of Paris or Milan Fashion Week. Best of both worlds? Yes.

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