The reversible hotel

Guest rooms at the Ageas Bowl Hotel transform into spaces to watch cricket matches. Howzzat?


Words by Mark Doohan, Director, Falconer Chester Hall

The newly opened Ageas Bowl Hotel by Hilton wraps around the Ageas Bowl, home to Hampshire County Cricket Club. The pitch-facing bedrooms are designed to convert to hospitality and spectator use on major-match days and the second-floor, central function room becomes a media centre for press and broadcasting.

In a number of the pitch-facing rooms, loose furniture including the bed and nightstands can be removed to convert the space into a media studio. There are extra power and data sockets, and a cable access-way out onto the balcony, neatly concealed so as not to compromise the guest room experience. There is also a desk large enough to accommodate hospitality catering, just one element that was adapted from the initial designs for rooms to serve their dual function.

Integrated into the hotel's design, the media centre has angled glass panels -- spanning some 20m -- that slide according to the position of the camera. Rows of tiered seats, each with individual power points and cabling, can accommodate up to 100 members of the press, all with uninterrupted views of the playing field.

The finishes and materials in the media centre are hardwearing and practical, the colours muted and unobtrusive while texture in the wall coverings and carpet patterns adds interest to and breaks up the space.

The 171-guest room hotel is close to Winchester, Eastleigh Aerodrome, Hamble-le-Rice (known for yachting) and the New Forest. So the client brief, in addition to its unusual dual use, was to create an ageless and welcoming design. The design brings together reflections of the site's sporting heritage, its historic connections and the beautiful countryside that surrounds Winchester. It combines organic forms and patterns reminiscent of the New Forest with the rich-hued timbers and leathers of the site's sporting and aviation past.

All the guest rooms have views of either the pitch or a planned golf course; the design deliberately reflects the outside, with cushions and carpet patterns in lime green.

More distinct cricketing references are contained in the artwork as well as cricket bails incorporated into the design of the carpet. The stitching detail on the headboards is inspired by the leather ball. The furniture is more classical and conservative in nature, with crisp detailing and accessories, emphasising personal indulgence for this private environment.

The use in the reception of rich, muted colours and heavy textures echo the sporting pedigree of willow and leather, with stitching reminiscent of cricket balls, and touches of brass. Pendant lighting emphasises the double-height lobby.

The lounge and restaurant have a classic look; parquet flooring and wooden panelling give a deep, warm feel to the space. Leathers and heavy drapes, mixed with metal work redolent of vintage luggage, have influenced the detailing to the bar and fixed furniture. A sumptuous colour palette of deep magenta and plum defines the spaces. Leather bar stools, dark woodwork and accents of stainless steel and glass add a touch of glamour.

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