Project Name: The Mandrake Hotel

Location: London

Date Completed: August 2017

Architect: Manalo & White

Interior Designer: Culture in Architecture Interior Design / Tala Fustok Ltd.

Construction Company: Beck Interiors

A 34room boutique hotel; understated on the outside, yet magical and full of surprises on the inside. The owner’s vision was to create a haven at the confluence of design, art, music, food and performance; a suite of rooms above a bar and restaurant, diffusing the boundaries between public and private, enriched with corners and pockets of intimacy and interaction. Inspiration was drawn from around the world, but the final product was to be rooted in London with a magical sense of being elsewhere.

Manalo & White’s challenge was to transform a pair of unpromising office buildings into a magical, spectacular and surprising internal world, part of but also distanced from the central London location, balancing privacy and sociability, intimacy and spaciousness. An unprepossessing, dark and mysterious entrance tunnel leads visitors from the street to the heart; a vibrant lobby, restaurant and bar connected in an enfilade sequence around a central glazed courtyard.

Above this busy ground floor social hub is a large private first floor terrace, surrounded on all sides by a three-storey hanging garden. The guest rooms are arranged around this internal courtyard, each with full-height glazed doors opening onto walkways and private terraces. The vertical planting is interrupted by other forms, clad in weathered iroko reclaimed from the building’s previous incarnation, including a lift shaft with tattoo-lined interior, a hidden private bar and a glazed greenhouse dining room. Secreted on the lower ground floor are WCs with a shared hand wash area equipped with specially designed hanging brass tubes that light the basins and provide warm running water. This subterranean area includes antechambers, seating spaces and a black walled ‘anti-gallery ‘and live performance space.

Above the busy ground floor social hub is a large private first floor terrace, surrounded on all sides by a three-storey hanging garden of jasmine and passion flowers. This soft green cascade cloaks the elevated walkways that bridge between the guest rooms, wrapping like a curtain around the guests within. The hotel’s sociable and convivial ethos is enhanced through the porosity of the spaces, a theatricality heightened by glimpsed and reflected views of spaces beyond, inviting further exploration. The marble-floored courtyard is the social hub, offering an appreciation of the whole environment. Branching out from this centre, the circulation stitches together the fragments of the original building with the simply detailed new components.


The materiality of the hotel is that of the surrounding city: brick, steel, concrete, timber, stone, plants. But their arrangement creates a spectacular and surprising internal world; part of, but also distanced from the central London location. The client’s desire for an immersive environment is manifested in a heightened appreciation of the surrounding city.