Port Muziris : A tribute to an ancient Port city

Conceptualised by Twenty 14 Holdings and created by Studio HBA, Port Muziris, a Tribute Portfolio hotel from Marriott International — the first in Asia — is fiercely independent in its approach to design

Harshan Thomson

Inspired design. That is the one way to describe the interiors of the new hotel from Marriott International. Port Muziris, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, which opened in May this year, is the first Tribute hotel in Asia and stands just seven to 10 minutes from the Kochi airport. Marriott International inherited the Tribute Portfolio when it took over Starwood Hotels in 2016. The Tribute is a “soft brand of independent, characterful hotels” that are anchored in design and art, and intricately reference the destination they are in.

The archetypal hotel reception has been replaced by a living room setting of a beautiful home.

Abhishek Mathur, Director, Studio HBA.

Abhishek Mathur, Director, Studio HBA, who designed the hotel, contends that the project was initially planned as an archetypal select service business hotel. “However, after visiting the site, we realised that the project had an immense potential to flaunt a unique personality, which was more design driven. Subsequently, we met with the owners and the Marriott team and the approach resonated with them as well. After our initial concept scheme was presented, we were given the mandate of designing this lovely property.” The hotel is inspired by myriad local stories in Kochi as well as from the mythical port of Muziris. “Going through the layered history of Kochi-Muziris, we realised that this was a great opportunity to establish the hotel as part of its living history.”

Kettle, the tea lounge of the hotel, is a mélange of colours, textures, fabrics and open spaces

Port Muziris, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel builds an interesting narrative as a private home of Lila, an imaginary muse and mascot conceptualised by Twenty 14 Holdings and created by Studio HBA. She is purportedly a London-based  artist whose mother grew up in Mattancherry, in Fort Kochi, and moved to the British capital city after marriage. She is a treasure house of stories about Muziris and its legion of sailors and traders. “Lila became a bridge for us to connect the past with the present. The character background of Lila became what the property represents — intricately connected with the local culture yet progressive in its outlook. Her passion for art and graphics fuels the vibrant and fresh palette of the property. Her invisible presence — a human touch, creates a warm and homelike environment for the guests,” informs Mathur.


The cosy Lila's Kitchen, the sole restaurant of the hotel, will remind you of a striking home kitchen.

Lila’s fervour for art and graphics suffuses the varied design elements across the property. The art-infused hotel is a sensory delight. The colours are earthy mustard and indigo and the cosy lobby resembles a living room with its larger-than-life painting of the tropical Malabar Coast by artist Shahul Kollengode. The 70 curated art pieces in the hotel were commissioned to artists who grew up in Kerala and distill the Malayali culture and the landscape around Muziris through their art — herons in freshwater ponds; ‘Pearl and Ivory’, a painting by Vishnu M Nair, depicting the old tale of pearls as large as elephants being traded; a 3D work of a fisherman selling his fresh catch of crabs, and tropical hand-painted terracotta tiles, among others. The art is on the canvas, on the walls, and also in flamboyantly coloured elephant figurines.


A larger-than-life painting of the tropical Malabar Coast by artist Shahul Kollengode at the entrance.

“We wanted to make the space to feel as ‘un-hotel like’ as possible.The spaces were always imagined as a large home that Lila’s guests are being welcomed in. For example, the guests are welcomed under a large portico that was extended from the original structure at the drop-off. Instead of seeing a reception desk right at the entrance, the guests find themselves in a spacious living room setting, with the backdrop of a vibrant and beautiful mural done by a local Kerala artist,” says Mathur. “As much as possible, all spaces are naturally lit to allow for the light and landscape to filter into the interior spaces. The guest rooms have a cosy seating with an intricate Rattan weave detail next to the windows, while all ancillary circulation areas, including, staircases are adorned with thought-provoking artwork from local artists.”


Herons in a pond, a common sight in Kerala, find resonance on the canvas.

Kettle, the tea lounge, features striking black and white photographs of the actual excavation site of the ancient port city. Port Muziris, Kochi’s signature experience is an exploration of the endless remains of the one powerful port city studded with wooden homes, churches, palaces and synagogues. The landscape is depicted in a minimal, pared-down, contemporary style at the hotel. The suites, like much of the hotel, are art filled with tropical paintings defining the walls. Mathur details, “By using natural materials such as rough plaster, rattan and coloured tiles, we have found a way to integrate the warmth of old Kochi homes into a modern and contemporary setting. We believe that Port Muziris is a bold and fresh take on the Kerala culture, revealing a rich palimpsest of its native art forms, materials and folklore.” As textured and layered as the history of Muziris, this little hotel is as much a visual delight as a repository of Kerala's history and its equally textured past.

PROJECT DETAILS

• Name of the project: Port Muziris, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel
• Client: Twenty Fourteen Holdings
• Designer: Studio HBA, Mumbai
• Area: 35,000sq.ft
• Location: Kochi, Kerala
• Duration of project: 1.5 years
• Date of completion: May 2019

MATERIALS & SUPPLIERS
• HVAC consultants: MEP Consulting Engineers, Mumbai
• Lighting consultants: LET DESIGN
• Flooring: Public area - Crema Jasper; Guest room tiles - Mosaico Group
• Sanitary fittings: Public area – Kohler Co; Guestroom - Duravit (WC&Washbasin), CP fittings - Kohler Co
• Light fixtures: Public area – Qlite; Guest room - Halcyon
• Wall texture: Paint finish texture - Acrisyl Decora; Asian – white gold; Royal luxury emulsion paint; Jotun – white gold; Acrylic emulsion paint
• Furniture: Sobha interior division and Cyril
• Hardware: Hafele
• Mattress: KingKoil