The generator

One of London’s more institutional buildings has been transformed into a backpacker’s haven by Chris Chanin, creative designer on the ú1m six-floor project for London Hotels.

One of London’s more institutional buildings has been transformed into a backpacker’s haven by Chris Chanin, creative designer on the ú1m six-floor project for London Hotels. Chanin was commissioned to fit out an old police station in King’s Cross with dormitories, bars, a restaurant, club, conference room and lounge areas to accommodate 700 budget travellers.

`My proposal was to call it The Generator and then let the building speak for itself,’ says Chanin. He describes the theme, which runs through the interiors, graphics and room names, as a cross between the 1930s film Metropolis and the 1980s film The Terminator. Chanin’s original name suggestion for the conference room – Lobotomy – was turned down and it is now called Talking Heads.

The public areas in the 1930s building are decked out in chrome, stainless steel and galvanised metal. Neon lights are used to break up the monotony of the police station’s vast fluorescent-lit areas, and the old timber screens have been replaced with metal screens. `The station was such an institutional-looking building – the spaces did not flow so I have created shapes to theme the areas,’ Chanin adds.

Chanin briefed Davies Hall to design the hotel’s identity and graphics, which illustrate the communal areas such as the Chiller Bar and the reception area.

`We put together the core Generator identity of a piston in positive and negative to reflect the theme of the hotel. The supporting graphics were generated from a computer,’ says Robin Hall, design director at Davies Hall. The Generator graphic had to be simple for it to be applied as a stencil on to T-shirts, menus, stationery and towels, Hall comments.

The consultancy’s aim was to `create some excitement visually’, says Hall, using the 1930s robotic genre with hard square shapes and pieces of retro machinery – the toilet signs are nuts and bolts.

The graphics were designed in mild tone greys with fierce electric blues and orange terracottas.

Chanin commissioned illustrator Darrel Rees of the Heart Agency to design a 2.4m-high image of a head for printing on a blind which hangs at the hotel’s 9m-high front window. This head motif will also be used on The Generator membership cards.

Other special features used in the hotel include three-dimensional `generator men’ created by design students at Birmingham University, where Chanin is an external examiner. These `organic alien shapes in copper wire’ will be positioned so that they `create an event to punctuate the space’, says Chanin.

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