The Ageas Bowl Hotel brings together the site’s sporting heritage and its surroundings

The Ageas Bowl Hotel by Hilton sits in a unique context. It overlooks the Ageas Bowl, home to Hampshire County Cricket Club and nestles between the historic city of Winchester, Eastleigh Aerodrome which saw the first flight of the iconic Supermarine Spitfire, Hamble-le-Rice yachting mecca and the unsurpassed environment of the New Forest.

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Ensuring excellence in both accommodation and press/media facilities, the hotel wraps around the stadium bowl. The pitch-facing bedrooms are designed in such a way as to convert to hospitality and spectator use on major match days. The second-floor central function room becomes a world-class media centre for press and broadcasting. The building can therefore operate as a hotel for the majority of the year, but the requisite facilities are available on match days and other sporting occasions. This highly flexible dual-purpose use makes the Ageas Bowl fundamentally unique in terms of both its hotel and stadium design.

Falconer Chester Hall’s design for the hotel’s interiors brings together reflections of the site’s sporting heritage, its historic connections and the beautiful countryside, creating a luxurious and inviting space to welcome guests.

The client brief was to create an ageless and welcoming design whose feel, quality and attention to detail would complement and enhance the international Hilton brand whilst establishing a hotel of individual character, rooted in and responding to its unique environment.

Says Mark Doohan, Director of Falconer Chester Hall Architects: “Our design brings together reflections of the site’s sporting heritage, its historic connections and the beautiful countryside that surrounds the city, creating a luxurious and inviting space to welcome guests to the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl.”

The design combines organic forms and patterns reminiscent of the New Forest with the rich hued timbers and leathers of the site’s sporting past, finally adding a dash of the panache and excitement of 1920s aviation.

Bright, professional and welcoming, the lobby and reception provide the important arrival space and first point of contact for all the facilities, creating a hub for the hotel and a visual link between it and the spa, golf club and cricket ground. From the outset, the guest feels that this hotel is unique to Eastleigh and Southampton. Rich muted colours and heavy textures echo the sporting pedigree of willow and leather, with rugged stitching reminiscent of cricket balls and touches of brass introducing the guest to what else they might find in the hotel.

Falconer Chester Hall’s design makes full use of the dramatic double height lobby, with arresting pendant lighting casting enchanting shadows across the other surfaces.

Meanwhile, the lounge and restaurant have a classic look; parquet flooring and wooden panelling give a deep warm feel to the space. Leathers and heavy drapes, mixed with metal work redolent of vintage luggage, have influenced the detailing to the bar and fixed furniture. Opulent lighting combined with a sumptuous colour palette of deep magenta and plum, defines the spaces. Leather bar stools, dark woodwork and accents of stainless steel and glass add a touch of glamour. In the Executive Lounge, the use of leathers and bold colours is continued but lightened and freshened with soft greys and warm whites.

Natural light is plentiful thanks to glazing running the length of the restaurant, opening out onto a terrace allowing this space to be flexible during the day and night. Come nightfall heavy drapery is introduced, whilst during the day the view is celebrated with light voile window treatments allowing prime views over the ground.

In the spacious guest bedrooms, stylish comfort is the aim. With all the rooms having views of either the pitch or the forthcoming golf course, the design deliberately reflects the outside, with cushion and carpet patterns in limed green. More distinct cricketing references are contained in the artwork as well as cricket bails incorporated into the design of the carpet. The stitching detail on the headboards is inspired by the leather ball. The furniture is more classical and conservative in nature, with crisp detailing and accessories, emphasising personal indulgence for this private environment.

Falconer Chester Hall has combined elements relating to the unique context and history of the site to create the Lakeview Sports Bar, a relaxed and informal bar and lounge space.

The interior design deliberately applies the effect of light and dark, with the inky finishes serving as a backdrop to the warmer walnut timber work and earthy tones of the furniture and accessories. A masculine palette is softened with rich textures and luxurious fabrics. The bar, finished in brass and whose stone counter is accented with brass vanes, creates a balanced high-end feel required by the Hilton brand.

Panelling either side of the sports bar entrance provides focus and direction towards the areas of relaxation. Bespoke multi-use display units provide visual connection between the areas and the openings within the panelling will evolve over the years as glimpses through to the relaxation spaces are accented by accumulated sporting trophies. The design uses different flooring materials to create a flexible space that caters for dining, casual seating, small groups and classic high bar seats. Rich timber and muted carpets define the main lounge and dining areas, whilst the bar itself is tiled with almost startling blue and white geometric designs. A mix of pendant lights, their bold ball shapes echoes of past cricket and golf games, floor and table lamps and contemporary downlighters animate the space, providing arresting and practical solutions to the range of lighting needed for the bar area.

All the materials used adhere to Hilton’s strong brand standards which have been developed to assure the high quality end product required, balanced with maintenance demands and the overall project budget. For example, the wallpapers throughout are heavy-backed to provide very high durability. They are also sealed so that stains and the walls in general can be wiped down with a damp cloth, facilitating a 10 year maintenance warranty for these elements.

The budget for the interior design for this project was considerably smaller for projects of this standard due to problems inherited from the original contractor. This created considerably more financial pressure, which Falconer Chester Hall met by adopting more design initiatives to enable the quality and comfort of the hotel to be presented through a more subtle high end finish.

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