The Alan Hotel
This new project, the Alan Hotel in Manchester, was brought to our attention by the interior designers Red Deer.
Red Deer are the real McCoy; one of a handful of designers who practice what they preach when it comes to new thinking and sustainability and as such we’re always keen to see what they’ve been up to.
In the words of lead designer Ciarán O’Brien, “We are the first designers to operate in an era where we have a whole new generation of materials to play with made from recycled content.
“Sustainability should no longer be a skin-deep greenwashing, but integral to the principles of the project.
“At The Alan we haven’t been perfect, but we have taken many steps forward in that direction to the sensitive reuse of materials, the repair and refreshment of existing areas in the building and engaging with disrupted waste streams as a founding idea of the design.”
The Alan was borne from a vision of wanting to do things differently.
Something that would resonate with its customers.
Something experimental, fresh and with an emphasis on partnerships between artists, chefs, designers, and forward-thinkers.
Situated opposite the Manchester Art Gallery, in the heart of the city, next to the vibrancy of Chinatown and the bustle of the central shopping district, The Alan (formerly the Princess Street Hotel) is a unique six-storey building with a pop-up mixed-use space, a ground floor restaurant/cafe/bar, and 137 bedrooms.
“The Alan started life with an open forum between all the key stakeholders of the project including branding, interiors and the client,” says Ciarán O’Brien.
“We were interested in finding value where it was lost, being playful with form and providing an offering that was unexpected and new in the Manchester scene.”
By exposing the building’s modest beginnings – the historic brickwork, the pitted stonework and honest craftsmen marks – they have been able to pay homage to the building’s rich heritage and bring the interior back to life.
The original plasterboard and lowered ceilings, which had made the whole building disproportional, were removed, revealing the true tall dimensions of the rooms and unlocking the potential for stunning sculptural additions in both communal areas and guestrooms.
Red Deer worked with ‘makers’ and craftsmen Robin Grasby, Mika Kaski and Int Marble (see below) to transform the former cotton warehouse.
“The guest room vanity units are a feat of engineering in their marriage of the impossible joints of a shower and bedroom,” says O’Brien.
“They fulfil so many functions, from wardrobe to sink, mirror to partition, all whilst being a sculptural art piece in their own right, helping to anchor the room against its vast size.”
The ‘living’ functions of the guest rooms were accentuated through the use of a long terrazzo shelf, made by Robin Grasby, and light fittings crafted around waste materials with a kinetic playfulness, made by Mika Kaski.
“We worked with Mika Kaski on light fittings for the Ground Floor public areas and the swivel and alabaster lights for the bedrooms,” says O’Brien.
“They are lively, balanced lights that respond to touch and the transfer of energy of the room’s inhabitants.”
As with all Red Deer projects, a sensitive approach was taken to reuse as much of the original materials as possible, repairing and refreshing existing parts of the building and engaging in disrupted waste streams.
The ground floor terrazzo is a collage of fragmented and discarded marble pieces, crafted in collaboration with Int. Marble, and is a perfect example of this circular design approach.
“I had always been acutely aware of how wasteful the construction industry is,” says O’Brien, “and decided to celebrate the inherent value still found in these marble pieces, despite typically being considered as offcuts or ‘defective’.
“When viewed individually they seem to be useless fragments, but make sense in the space when they flow together as one.
“Subtly this refers to how we’re all made up of a collage of our personal stories – some good, some bad but all have a part in who we are.”
Red Deer are renowned for creating spaces and objects with feeling. Their concept for The Alan was driven by purpose rather than style, to ensure the space connected and resonated with people on an emotive level and, in turn, created a lasting feeling.
Maker: Robin Grasby
Grasby makes it look simple, working a modern-day version of terrazzo, made from reclaimed and recycled marble, into masterpieces. The maker behind The Alan’s sculptural furniture pieces, terrazzo room shelves and the front of the bar inspired by the M62 that circles the city. The unique design sees cigarette butts, weeds and flowers set in resin to create a thought-provoking bar design that is synonymous with the energetic atmosphere of The Alan.
Maker: Mika Kaski
Kaski works with marble and combines the material with wood, stone, ceramics and metal to design shapes and lighting which integrate with the environment. The maker behind the kinetic light fittings in the ground floor public areas, the swivel lights for the in-room desk spaces and the alabaster bedside lights, which offer guests a calming turndown experience.
Maker: Int Marble
Working with Int Marble Red Deer have been able to reuse the waste marble that would normally have been collecting dust in stone yards. By thinking outside the box and looking at the potential of reusing materials, such as glass, clay, brick and metals, Red Deer approached Int. and worked collectively to create a stunning collaged terrazzo ground floor which is likely to become a favoured Instagram spot in the city.
“I advocate for disrupting waste streams in materials and energy on every project I work on. Consumers are becoming increasingly selective in aligning themselves with brands that have the same values, and I want Red Deer to be at the architectural forefront of showcasing how interiors can reassign ‘value’ and be transformed into beautiful spaces without a huge cost to the earth.”
Ciarán O’Brien, Red Deer.