Cover features

High and mighty

Written by Oscar Guijarro

The launch of Macau’s newest high-end hotel and gaming facility, Morpheus at City of Dreams, raises the bar for local luxury.

When Melco Resorts Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho launched Morpheus on 15 June, he said that the hotel was intended as a “thank you to China and a love letter to Macau.” Morpheus is the latest addition to City of Dreams in Cotai – an ultra-luxury hotel complex showcasing unforgettable architecture and aimed primarily at high end Chinese customers.

In Greek mythology, Morpheus was the god of dreams and as in dreams, the new hotel is populated with glimpses of pure fantasy: a real snow garden in Morpheus Spa, a restaurant inhabited by metallic cocoons, a diaphanous art gallery playing with the clouds and a swimming pool sitting 130 meters above the ground.

Aiming high

Morpheus has 772 guest rooms, suites and villas encased in a gigantic structural network eroded by a succession of transparent cavities, bridged platforms and atriums where the astounding views of the Cotai Strip are impossible to ignore.

Everything in Morpheus seems to have been tailored to deliver an upscale experience and, as Ho highlighted during his opening speech, the non-gaming aspects of the hotel are central to its grandeure. Among them is an entire floor dedicated to legendary French chef Alain Ducasse and home to two new restaurants: Voyages and Alain Ducasse at Morpheus. Voyager combines Latin American and Asian flavors in what Ducasse describes as “a summary of what I love.” On the other hand, Alain Ducasse at Morpheus will deliver the type of contemporary French cuisine he has become famous for the world over.

Pierre Hermé, an internationally recognized pastry master, brings to Asia his “sweet” geniality with the opening of a lounge bearing his name.

The culinary offer at Morpheus is completed by Yí, a regional Chinese restaurant serving omakase-style. In this style the chef decides the menu items his guests will eat, with the available ingredients and chef’s inspiration playing an essential role in the experience. The interior design of the restaurant depicts an almost surrealist environment. A series of cocoon-shaped areas formed by metallic plaques create a unique atmosphere, preserving intimacy but leaving wide-open sights of the Cotai surroundings.

The gaming offer will be supplied by VIP room Li Yíng Club, while the main City of Dreams casino, whose access is seamlessly integrated with the new hotel, is located right alongside Morpheus with direct access from the hotel lobby. Notably, owner and operator Melco Resorts has been granted permission by the Macau government to shift 40 gaming tables from its existing casinos to Morpheus in order to start serving its high-end customers immediately.

Tangled simplicity

Morpheus’ exquisite design is not just the property of its restaurants. Macau-born Peter Remedios was responsible for the interior design of the spa, hotel rooms and villas and told WGM that, even though he considers gaming to be an important constant in Macau, “hotel rooms don’t need to look like a casino … you want this place to let you recharge.”

With such a concept in mind, Remedios developed spaces where the light and ambience transmit a sense of relaxation. In particular he loves the opportunity the building offers to the design in terms of light and how carefully paying attention to every small detail was part of the creative process.

The architectural concept for Morpheus was fathered by the late Zaha Hadid – the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker prize. Hadid’s designs frequently defied orthodox architectural currents and in Morpheus she has used the curve as a foundation element.

The 160-meter-high tangled exoskeleton of concrete and steel envelops 39 floors, within which it is easy to become captivated by its sheer size, scale and atmosphere. Hadid’s idea was to develop a building that is never quite what it appears to be.

As Remedios says, “What Zaha has done is opened the door to innovation within the project.

“A guest who is coming to Morpheus is looking for a very different experience so we responded by creating interiors that build upon that – the fluidity of her design means that as you travel through the spaces, you discover things, you discover details. You turn a corner and something else happens … you see the bar for example. Most hotels call them mini-bars, at Morpheus they are maxi-bars – floor to ceiling. The bathrooms are totally different, the bathtubs are one of a kind because they were created for Morpheus. We created a bespoke furniture collection. Morpheus is one of a kind.”

Closing the circle

While the opening of Morpheus is the most externally visible addition to the CoD property, it is not the only one. The hotel formerly known as Crown was recently rebranded as Nüwa, complete with classic Chinese influences. Likewise, the old Hard Rock hotel has a new name too – Libertine.

When combined, the three hotels – with Morpheus leading the way – aim to position City of Dreams as the very height of Macau luxury. Whether successful or not, Morpheus certainly makes for a fascinating addition to the Cotai skyline.