The prominent “W” signs at the porte-cochere and on the facade make a distinct statement as you drive up to the latest hotel on the block along Jalan Ampang.

The swanky international hotel chain needs little introduction, having dotted skylines in over 50 cities worldwide since the first W opened in New York in 1998.

The W Hotel and Residences Kuala Lumpur made its debut in Malaysia in August. Part of Marriott International Inc, the 55-storey luxury chic property occupies a mere 1.3-acre (0.5ha) space, but is big on style and breaks away from the notion of traditional luxury. The project is owned by Tropicana Corporation Bhd and was designed by local firm Veritas Design Group in collaboration with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP or SOM, the American architecture, interior design, engineering and urban planning firm responsible for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The hotel is SOM’s first project in Malaysia.

The W Hotel Kuala Lumpur is located a stone’s throw from the Petronas Twin Towers. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

“It was a good learning experience for us, working with a world-renowned tall building designer,” said Veritas principal architect Lillian Tay when we met at the hotel recently.

“W is a strong brand, so they always want the same brand identity to be carried through their hotels worldwide. So the design is very trendy, urban and edgy. There’s a high-tech feel to it, and an unconventional element of surprise. And I think KL, being a cosmopolitan city, was ready for it,” she adds.

Tay adds that the W is also a brand that readily evolves to “capture the prevailing avant garde culture of the times”.

“Asians are always about quick transformations and we are not tied to tradition so much (in terms of the definition of luxury).

“That’s why W Hotels do very well in Asia – there are so many in China – because they capture the fast-moving, future-oriented sort of feel,” she says.

However, the hotel brand also respects local culture and the essence of the city it is in.

“There are elements of Kuala Lumpur here. For instance, these flowing lines depict the confluence of two rivers – Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang,” says Tay as she gestures to the ceiling and walls of the ground lobby.

“So the concept of the meeting of rivers and the whole energy behind it forms a strong design element at the hotel. I think that’s a nice aspect to it, because even though it’s futuristic, the hotel also embraces values about sustainable resilience, so that new ethic coming in is a good thing. It is not just a luxury brand but also a thinking brand, not just style-driven, but also always engaging with the artistic community,” she adds.

A distinct design feature seen throughout the hotel, which has 150 rooms and suites, is the pixel or dot, used to depict the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic makeup of the country.

A touch of the traditional is seen in wau tassels and pixelated batik motifs, as well as references to the spinning top found in the bracelet chandeliers at the lobby as well as in the rooms.

At the Woobar, plastic tubes that reflect LED lights give off a modern and edgy feel.

Veritas Design Group principal architect Tay (left) and associate architect Syah Kamaruddin, who collaborated with American firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in the project. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

The space also incorporates a lot of landscaped outdoor and terrace space which, Tay adds, in a way references the old colonial bungalows that used to be situated near the hotel.

At night, the hotel facade lights up, standing out in shocking pink and purple, another signature look synonymous with the hotel chain.

A lot of thought also went into the design of the overall hotel facade, added Tay.

“The glass and aluminium facade is unique and complex. There is a lot of fine detailing and finesse in it; it’s not just a flat surface but has a lot of depth and shadow. It is a well-articulated texture and we are very proud of it,” adds Tay.

Indeed, those familiar with the brand are also proud to finally have the W in our own backyard.