Just a few years ago a London taxi driver wasn't convinced I'd given him the right address when I asked him to take me to the Mondrian London in the South Bank district on the Thames. He didn't think there were any upscale hotels in that neighborhood.
At the time, the property, which was recently rebranded as the Sea Containers London hotel, was a bit of an anomaly in an area historically known for manufacturing and working wharfs. But things have certainly changed since that cab ride.
The newest example of the evolution of the South Bank neighborhood is the Bankside Hotel, a member of Marriott International's Autograph Collection Hotels. The hotel opened in October.
Part of the One Blackfriars development, a mixed-use project created by architect Ian Simpson, the Bankside features a design-forward aesthetic that blends gallery space, tech-enabled lounges where guests can work or relax and a Maker in Residence program that encourages emerging artists to create and exhibit their work at the property.
A king room at the Bankside Hotel, an Autograph Collection hotel, London. Photo Credit: Peter Jackson
The design of the six-story, 161-room hotel's interior was overseen by Dayna Lee, a film set art director-turned-hotel designer at Los Angeles' Powerstrip Studio.
"The design of Bankside has an art-school style with added polish, an appreciation for midcentury collection and black line drawings," Lee said, adding that she commissioned a variety of British artists to create elements that reflect the ethos of the arty neighborhood.
Laura Carlin, for example, a ceramicist and illustrator from London, produced two tiled wall murals that reflect South Bank's history, and Malgorzata Bany, a London-based artist and designer, created tables cast from Jesmonite, a building material historically used by architects to raise buildings above water.
The first in what will be a rotating cast of Makers in Residence is London-based contemporary artist and urban landscape painter Luke Walker.
The Bankside also commissioned Helen Gorrill, a portrait artist represented by the Contemporary Collective, an online gallery featuring emerging artists, to create three portraits of people with a connection to the area.
To help guests get a feel for the neighborhood, the property offers guided walks led by a former director of the Museum of London, Antony Robbins, known locally at Mr. London. His Bankside Darkside tour showcases the neighborhood's colorful history, which includes everything from prostitution and murder to the horrors of the Blitz during WWII. The Chaos tour focuses on its historic playhouses, including Shakespeare's Globe Theater, as well as local taverns and brothels.
Guests can also work out at a two-mile urban training circuit in conjunction with the property's partnership with StreetGym and led by a trainer.
More traditional attractions also are very close by, including the Tate Modern, the British Film Institute and Borough Market, with its vibrant food and craft stalls.
The Art Yard restaurant at the Bankside, an Autograph Hotel, London. Photo Credit: Peter Jackson
Speaking of food, the hotel features Art Yard, an informal, all-day neighborhood restaurant and bar overseen by chef Lee Streeton.
Instead of minibars, each guestroom floor features a vending machine stocked with wine, spirits, preblended cocktails, soft drinks and snacks, and water bars with sparkling and still water taps are located on each floor.
Opening rates at the Bankside start from $375, including breakfast and VAT.