One of Zaha Hadid’s final projects: the Morpheus hotel

One of the final projects designed by the late Zaha Hadid, The Morpheus Hotel, is set to open this spring. We spoke to the woman behind the helm, project director Viviana Muscettola, to find out more.

Words by Sam Forsdick

Unique in the fact that it is the first tower in the world to use an external skeleton to support its massive structure, the Morpheus hotel is one of the final projects designed by celebrated architect Zaha Hadid. After her untimely death in 2016, the project was finished by her architecture firm, with Viviana Muscettola taking over the role of project director.

DesignCurial were offered the chance to speak to Viviana to find out more about the Morpheus hotel project, which is due to open in the spring of 2018. 28,000 tons of steel were used to construct the supportive exoskeleton that makes this project one-of-a-kind. According to Viviana, the result is “a sensuous and intriguing form,” which “[provides] the construction advantage of contributing to the building’s stability, and reduces the internal structural requirements optimising the interior layout.”

Viviana explains that by using a pioneering exoskeleton, there is more freedom with regards to how to use the space inside. “The mixed-use nature of the brief called for an architectural solution that could give the maximum flexibility,” she explains. The building will contain approximately 780 guest rooms, suites and sky villas in the two main towers. These are joined at the top - by an infinity pool and leisure area on the 40th floor - and at the base, by the hotel’s central atrium.

In between these connecting points, there will also be two sky bridges that connect the towers and give the overall design the appearance of a melting sculpture. “The sculpted void blends roof, walls and ceilings without distinction of traditional architectural elements,” Viviana elaborates. “The definition of building itself is pushed towards its boundaries.”

Part of Macau’s attempts to become a self-described “City of Dreams”, the Morpheus hotel has been designed to help establish the Chinese city as a centre for business and tourism. It is the flagship building in a new leisure complex within the heart of Macau, and is also the most architecturally impressive building in the region.

The aim for Zaha Hadid Architects was to create something new and original for the city, which represented the future of buildings and helped set Macau apart from other popular high end travel destinations. The project has an estimated cost of £2.35 billion, but Viviana doesn’t think every design has to be quite so ambitious; “the future should be designing buildings that are true to themselves,” she mentions, “where function, form and structure complement each other.”

“From the first meeting in which nothing seemed possible, through a series of test and trials, we have found a huge support and belief in the common goal of achieving the best,” said Viviana continued. After all, the complex techniques used to create the Morpheus would have been difficult for a smaller architecture firm to replicate, given the resources Zaha Hadid Architects have to hand.  

One of the ways that the team overcame these challenges was through the use of technology. Two highly connected pieces of tech were used in the project: bespoke scripts to control the geometry, and computer controlled robots to assemble components. “Without either of the two,” Viviana admits, “we could have not designed, developed and evaluated a huge amount of data that subsequently enabled the fabrication of extremely sophisticated geometries.”

The Macau Tourism Board hopes that the end result of the Morpheus hotel project will exceed the usual standards of five star hotels; the hotel will offer guests a range of leisure facilities including a casino, sky bridge dining experiences and an executive lounge. However, Viviana believes that Zaha Hadid Architects’ work on the Morpheus represents something more; “I think this project will also be used as a reference,” she muses, “for the solutions developed that enabled the particular skills and expertise of the local workforce to push new boundaries.”

Offering a glimpse at the future of innovative construction, the project is was in safe hands with Zaha Hadid - and her successor, Viviana Muscettola. A unique piece of architecture, as the last project of a great design legend, the Morpheus hotel will undoubtedly make a mark on its surroundings – and give Macau a bright future as a luxury travel destination.

All images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

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