The Nobu, UK

1st March 2022

The Nobu Portman Square is the third Nobu Hotel to open in London. Well known for its contemporary décor, the client brought in lighting designers at Isometrix to create a complementary scheme for the new branch.

Founded by renowned Japanese chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and his partners in the 90s, the Nobu brand is well-known for its contemporary décor, with high-end Japanese restaurants and luxury hotels all over the world. 

When Nobu London Old Park Lane opened, it was the first international outpost and was an immediate success; this was closely followed by Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch. Portman Square is the latest addition to join the London-based hotels; located in the heart of central London’s chic Marylebone area, the hotel features 249 guest rooms and suites, and world class dining options including Nobu Restaurant, Nobu Bar and Nobu Terrace, plus the relaxed restaurant and bar, The Lounge. The hotel also features a ballroom and meeting spaces, as well as the world’s first Nobu Pilates Reformer studio, which is situated in Nobu Wellness & Fitness.

With an existing relationship in place with the Nobu Group – having collaborated on several projects in the past – lighting designers from Isometrix were called upon to enrich the atmospheric and visual expression of the architecture, both internally and externally. The aim being to provide a guest experience in keeping with such a luxury lifestyle hotel – embellished with lighting accents that express the contemporary Japanese décor. 

One of the key lighting considerations on this project was the façade, which was completely revamped from the previously dreary Radisson Blu hotel aesthetic. The design team evolved the architectural lighting design and focussed the external façade with some strategically positioned lighting elements. This subtle lighting scheme delivers an enriched atmospheric and visual effect, expressing the building fabric and contours of the architecture.

As soon as you walk through the door everything about the space radiates a sense of calm. In the lobby for example, a cast-shining silver piece by kinetic sculptor Ivan Black is suspended from the ceiling, rotating hypnotically. Working with two separate interior design teams – Make Architects for the guest rooms and David Collins Studio for the public areas – the Isometrix team had full freedom to design their own lighting scheme. They discussed decorative lighting pieces with the teams to ensure the spaces were visually appealing and aligned with the concept and for the architectural lighting, specified the right products for application from brands including: Lucent, Precision Lighting, LightGraphix, Trkya, Kreon, Prolicht, iGuzzini, Soraa, and L&L Luce & Light – ensuring they were also aesthetically pleasing to create a clean finish, in-line with the Nobu brand.

With its close relationship with the Nobu Group, Isometrix understands the brand identity when it comes to lighting and approached the Portman Square location as an extension of the brand – wanting to create a sense of timeless elegance and sophistication that guests will adore. Having visited a previous Nobu hotel project they had worked on in Willow St, the lighting team used this as their foundation to then apply their own flair and set this unique hotel apart, all the while keeping its identity.

The building’s unique architecture and bespoke interior design provided the Isometrix team with the opportunity to design a beautifully lit environment – bringing a serene, calm and effervescent ambience through light for guests. Working with all disciplines to bring the scheme to life, the lighting design team built various mock-ups to review and personally visited the factories where the decorative light fittings were being produced. Working closely with the manufacturers, the team ensured the colour temperatures for all the fixtures were consistent with the overall lighting within the hotel.

As with all projects, Nobu Portman Square did have its challenges – some of which specifically relate to the fact the site was once a Radisson Blu hotel. As the space underwent a complete transformation, the design team found depths and voids were not as per originally designed and so had to specify particular luminaires to work within the set site conditions, while providing great illumination. As well as this, having to work with multiple main contractors and design teams across the project meant working with various approaches. Isometrix assisted by unifying the project as a whole, from guest rooms to the signature bar, ensuring all the while an attractive experience; the main objective being to create a coherent lighting design language and produce an alluring ambience throughout.

The lighting throughout, helps to facilitate a sense of calm by softly accenting the materials and furnishings without being noticed. The low-level lighting provides a soft glow as you navigate the public areas. The warmth from the colour temperature allows guests to feel comfortable. This is enriched by the lighting system, which gently alters the levels throughout the day, creating the finest of atmospheres. The décor then adds to this sense of calm, which flows throughout with the fine detailing and integrated lighting fittings that subtly draw guests’ attention.

“Our specification of high CRI LED light sources, the consistent warmth emitted, our input on bespoke lighting elements and the refinement of beam angles, all work to enhance the feeling of grandeur and luxury at Portman Square,” Ryan Jones, Senior Lighting Designer and Design Lead at Isometrix told arc. “We wanted to illuminate the spaces without the sources being visible – preserving the sense of calm and tranquillity known from the brand.

“As designers, we are very detail oriented and we paid close attention to finishes and materials – testing various lighting products, colour temperatures and CRI’s to make sure the light emitted enriched the surfaces they touched. We worked closely with manufacturers to create and tweak lighting products solely for the project to maintain the reduced visibility of the source, as this was a key factor.”

Reflecting on the project, fellow Design Lead and Intermediate Lighting Designer at Isometrix, Daniela Cordova, added: “Our lighting design on this project gives us a great sense of accomplishment. It’s incredible to look back at the initial concept visuals and compare them to the finished product. To see our ideas brought to life by the collaborative efforts of the various teams highlights the value our design carries.”

Image: Jack Hardy