China's first carbon-neutral hotel, the hip 26-room URBN Hotel Shanghai, will officially open this spring. Conceived by owners Scott Barrack and Jules Kwan, URBN promises to be the start of a new boutique hotel empire.
No strangers to luxury developments or to China where they have lived for 10 years, the two plan to open another 20 URBN hotels in China in the next three years, starting with Beijing, Hangzhou, Dalian and Suzhou. The hoteliers will go as green as possible by rehabilitating existing structures, using recycled materials, maximizing green space and introducing eco-friendly solutions.
Beyond co-founding boutique real estate investment and development company Space Development with Kwan, the California native Barrack has established several property companies in China, including Space International specializing in luxury French Concession district properties, and Inn Shangha, the city's first serviced boutique apartment complex. Sydney, Australia-born and raised Kwan is an alternative media and property development expert.
The partners have a unique, personal perspective on what works and what doesn't for a luxury traveler in China. To give visitors a true Shanghainese urban experience - something they felt was missing - they invited international Shanghai-based collaborators with similar sensibilities to convert a 1970s post office building to the stylish URBN Hotel Shanghai. The result is an impressive fusion of contemporary and Chinese design.
URBN's spatial concept, interior and facade design are by A00 Architecture, a partnership of three Canadian architects, best known for conversions of Shanghai's historic houses into unique residences. The hotel's interior designer is Brazil native architect, Tais Cabral, known for her commercial, cultural, residential and retail work in Paris, as well as her furniture design. By Tuija Seipell