From an artist-in-residence programme to high-end vending machines, the Bankside hotel in London has a number of innovative features, demonstrating there is scope for chain hotels to be cool in the 21st century. Jenny Southan checks in and reports back.
A member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Bankside hotel is located on London’s South Bank, on a quiet road running parallel to the River Thames. Opened in October 2018, it has 161 rooms and suites, and interior design that is safe but definitely not bland.
The interiors were conceived by Powerstrip Studio’s Dayna Lee, who was formerly a film set designer. She says: “Our design for the Bankside hotel has art school style with added polish, an appreciation for mid- century collection and black line drawings.”
Lee also commissioned several British craftsmen and makers to create key pieces – these include wall murals composed of illustrated tiles by ceramicist Laura Carlin, and a series of tables by Malgorzata Bany a London-based artist and designer.
Here are eight other cool things about the Bankside hotel…
1. Artist-in-residence programme
The Bankside hotel has partnered with Contemporary Collective to operate an on-going artist-in-residence programme with a dedicated permanent space on the ground floor where emerging artists have the opportunity to showcase and create work.
The first artists were London-based urban landscape painters Luke M Walker and Andrea Tyrimos, who collaborated for the first time. (Both use art to raise awareness about environmental issues.)
The Bankside hotel has also commissioned three portraits by Helen Gorrill of iconic people who have a connection to the local area. When I stayed, Victoria Heald was the resident Maker, specialising in figurative and animal works on gold.
The Contemporary Collective, which manages and curates the space, is an emerging online gallery founded in 2006 by Elinor Olisa and Isobel Beauchamp. It has a mission to “champion the careers of emerging and newly established artists internationally, allowing collectors’ insider access into the most promising talent that exists today”.
2. High-end vending machines
Instead of having minibars in the rooms, guests can buy everything they need – and more – from luxury vending machines outside lifts on every floor. As well as Partizan beer (£12), Sipsmith gin (£55) and bottles of Krug champagne (£190), you can buy “handmade sparkly pants” for £90, Swell water bottles (£38) and Tom Ford Aviator sunglasses (£365).
What else? The touchscreen units have multiple menus with other products for sale including a Harry Winston shaving set (£30), Charlotte Tilbury face mask (£21), Wolford tights (£22) and London Sock Co socks (£45). You can also get pre-mixed bottled cocktails from the Art Yard bar – a 250ml Gimlet costs £25.
3. Free StreetGym sessions
Instead of jogging alone on a treadmill in a gym, guests can take part in free StreetGym sessions that comprise outdoor urban circuit training using street furniture and gradients. Routes are between 1.5 and 2 miles, and demand participants to run, jump and crawl their away around the neighbourhood. One-hour classes every Tuesday and Thursday at 6.30pm are led by founder John Allison who used to be be in the army.
4. Water fountains in every corridor
Instead of selling or providing plastic or glass bottles of mineral water in the rooms, there are carafes that can be filled for free with chilled, filtered, tepid and sparkling water in every corridor. Every hotel should be doing this instead of wasting valuable resources and charging people for it.
5. Beehives on the roof
I didn’t see them but apparently the Bankside has beehives on the roof of the building. This is part of a wonderful new trend in London for creating habitats for bees, offering the added benefit of honey harvesting. (Apparently, registered beehives in the capital reached 5,500 in 2019, compared with nearly 1,700 in 2008.)
6. Tablets for ordering room service
There are phones by the bed if you want to speak to a human but I liked the fact that there were also tablets that could be used to order room service automatically.
7. Grown Alchemist bathing products – in refillable bottles
By December 2020, Marriott International is banning all single-use plastic toiletry bottles across its 7,000 worldwide hotels. This is great news. The Bankside is already ahead of the game, though, with its refillable bottles of Grown Alchemist shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, which is all natural and non-toxic.
8. Daily wine hour
Staying in hotels for work can be lonely, so the Bankside’s 5.30pm wine hour in the lobby is a great idea as it allows people to mingle and chat IRL.