Hong Kong is synonymous with incredible properties; yes, for their notorious sky-high prices, but equally also for the level of ingenuity and design knowhow required to make the most of the spaces nestled within our compact concrete jungle. The Morgan is of no exception: teetering high above Mid-Levels with the heart of the city below, the prestigious 31 Conduit Road address is home to some of the most spectacular apartments one can imagine.
The Robert A. M. Stern Architects-designed tower has won scores of awards since the building’s completion in 2016. It’s a residential high-rise made to exemplify contemporary luxury living: the 30th floor penthouse, for instance, was designed by Robert Cheng, founder of Brewin Design Office (BDO).
The tower features 34 duplexes — the largest of which is the 28th floor Morgan Sky Duplex, a 2,343 sq.ft. three-bedroom unit designed by Heidar Sadeki, co-founder and creative director of Richardson Sadeki. The renowned architect has designed luxury condos all around the world, including Hong Kong’s Tai Koo Place Serviced Apartments (now East Residences), Mount Parker Residences and 3 Julia Avenue in Ho Man Tin. He’s also no stranger to the hospitality and spa industry, with notable designs including the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi, the Bathhouse Spa at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay complex and more.
The Morgan Sky Duplex is the only one featuring an expansive terrace, measuring up to 460 sq. ft., with an 800 sq.ft. foyer and living room. It was recently purchased for HK$188.8 million — setting the record for price per square foot for duplexes in the development, and standing as a testament to Heidar Sadeki’s design tastes warranting some of the highest prices in the city.
We had a chance to sit down with the architect to chat about his favourite features of the apartment and his overall approach to design.
The Sky Duplex opens up into this incredible foyer and dining/living area that looks out onto the terrace, how did you approach the design of this large space?
We wanted to create this phenomenological transparency between the indoor and the outdoor, in mirroring the outside. That couch outside is made the exact same way as this sectional inside, but with waterproof material. On a nice spring day, you can have a nice gathering here, and do both indoor and outdoor cooking.
Within the existing design, you can have up to seven areas of sitting: one that’s more individual, for you to listen to music or read a book; and another area for twos or threes. For the size of the apartment, the socialising possibilities are expansive.
There’s also a contrast between the two spaces: if this darker dining room wasn’t looking at the living room, it might feel a little congested and heavy. When I’m sitting in the living room, I do enjoy seeing the darker, richer space in contrast. I think it is looking at the opposite space that brings the balance around.
You did some extensive renovations upstairs, removing one bedroom and one bathroom. The corridor has also been expanded from the usual one-metre width. Can you elaborate on how you changed the layout?
We got rid of a second bedroom and ensuite, originally between the guest bedroom and the master bedroom — I actually took half of that guest bedroom and made it a walk-in closet for the master bedroom. That takes a lot of convincing. Now at about 2,400 sq. ft., it feels much larger than that.
Once you reach upstairs you’ll find the bar, and we have another entrance here. If your partner or spouse is entertaining downstairs, and you can’t stand people — you can just enter through the 29th floor. If you do, it’s a kind of family room — where you catch your teenage daughter stealing your scotch, perhaps!
This corridor, now an art gallery after opening up, functions as a kind of gasket that separates the master bedroom from the other areas. I wanted it to have its own character, rather than just be a corridor that just takes you someplace else. It no longer comes across as that, and with the reflection of the black mirrored doors there’s an expansive sense of space.
What’s your absolute favourite feature of the duplex?
Definitely the master bathroom. Both the bathroom and the bedroom can be seen like its own wing, but if I had to choose between the two, I would sleep in the bathroom! It is a massive bathroom — one you’ll spend time in. You know how some bedrooms kind of result in divorces? I don’t think this one will.
You’ve had ample experience creating luxury spa environments, did that influence you in the design of this amazing bathroom?
This tepid room, so to speak, is designed around the Turkish notion of hammam. It warms up, it’s not as hot as a steam room, and it’s used for you to soap up. The most extensive version of that design I did in the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi — there are very large heated chairs in large black rooms. When I was a child, my mother and my sisters would go to this very elaborate hammam, they would go in the morning, take their food there, and come back in the afternoon. You go for all sorts of massages, there’s a room where you can nap… In the Middle East, it’s not considered something fancy that you do only if you’re rich, it’s part of the culture.
What kind of person did you picture buying and living in this residence?
I think a buyer would consider this as a place for living rather than for working. That’s why we thought we could easily get rid of one bedroom and a bathroom, because if you actually want to maximise functionality with the number of bedrooms, this is not the apartment for you.
I have a specific character in my mind: This person has a very specific interest in books, and that’s how I go and choose my books. That’s how we choose the music. What we create is actually more than the design of an apartment, it’s a branded lifestyle.
Most architects have an idea of who they are designing for, but most end up in the trap of just thinking about the functions. Thinking of these characters keeps my design approach consistent. You look at it as a whole, so it doesn’t end up becoming the body of Frankenstein.
We imagined the owners of this apartment to be a couple in their mid-40s to 60s, who have a grown-up daughter, maybe, who doesn’t live with them. The design of the guest bedroom is such that it doesn’t feel like your son’s room and someone has to sleep in it; hence I wanted it to have more of a hotel feeling, very clean, the tonality of colours used being greys, a slight amount of pinks and purples.
What’s the main quality you focus on when designing a residential project?
My background is in cinema, and I design my spaces based on a cinematic narrative. The details are less important to me than the narrative of the space. The primary approach to my design is: “What is the first thing you see when you walk in? What is the second thing? The third thing?” And then what’s the juxtaposition of these experiences… that’s what creates the narrative, that becomes essentially your memory of seeing the space. Or, what I call the aura.
That consistency also comes across with the materials used throughout the duplex. Can you tell us a bit more about the significance of the chosen materials?
One of the design languages I wanted to bring was the choice of Turkish travertine as materiality for the wall. This was an influence from the stones used outside, and also the language that Robert A. Stern used for the tower itself. It’s that neoclassical language of heavy stones that create stability and exclusiveness, to a certain degree.
By doing that, an almost exterior language comes into the interior, tying the tower to the interior of the apartment, connecting the public space to the private space.
You’ll be surprised, but in terms of the types of wood and stone that I’ve used in my projects in the past is fewer than the fingers on one hand. I’m very frugal — I keep a very tight palette. For me to choose a new material to work with takes years.
Johann Sebastian Bach came up with the 12-note system: It’s all variations of the same 12 notes. The challenge is what I do with the same materials. If you look at the Bathhouse Spa project, I used one material only — Brazilian black slate — but I have treated the texture in five different ways.
Have your projects inspired you to add similar touches to your own home?
Oh absolutely — I would love to go back home to that chair [below, left]: ever since I designed that chair I’ve been thinking it should be named “Fat Joe” — it’s like a playful, chubby child.
All image credits: Lit Ma Common Studio Ltd.
This article was originally published on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong in 2018.