Coming Ashore

Halifax's first luxury hotel pays homage to its maritime past

One of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia is shaped by its nautical heritage. Consider Halifax’s recently unveiled Queen’s Marque district, a reimagining of the old Queen’s Landing site hugging the edge of Halifax Harbour. Comprising nearly 100,000 square feet of public space, the waterfront cultural hub celebrates the capital’s past as much as its future as a thriving urban center.

The Queen’s Marque masterplan comes courtesy of local firm MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects and features a floating sandstone bar and a quartet of wharf buildings that are shaped like hulls and clad in glass and Muntz metal. Among these structures is Rise Again, a soaring work-in-progress that will”culminate in a sculpture at its apex, a harbor light by Wolfgang Buttress that is a proud and emblematic piece in which people can enter, climb, and interact as part of the glowing installation,” explains founding partner Brian MacKay-Lyons. “The project isn’t complete without it and it’s symbolic of the rise-again mentality that is embedded in Nova Scotia’s fabric.”

Along with residences, offices, and restaurants, as well as pedestrian passages and sheltering courtyards, Queen’s Marque stars the understated yet luxe 109-room Muir hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Designed by Toronto-based Studio Munge, Muir’s personality meshes well with the overall development that MacKay-Lyons describes as “monumentally modest.”

"The Tartans' unfinished short, frayed edges add a touch of romance, making this perfectly imperfect textile a story of humanity."

- Alessandro Munge

“There’s nothing ostentatious about Muir,” says Studio Munge founder and design director Alessandro Munge. “It is a balance of subtlety and respect.” Munge tapped into the fabric of Nova Scotia by creating an unpretentious and thoughtfully tailored hotel. “We meticulously layered all emotive layers to embody the essence of Muir and deliver a most memorable experience,” he adds.

Marine references abound. The curved corners of the lobby give way to wood-lined walls, fluted sandblasted granite, and hand-rubbed Muntz metal, warmed up by cosy fireplaces and statement pieces like the handwoven tapestry by Allison Pinsent-Baker that hangs behind the reception desk. There is also the oak plank ceiling accented with metal rivets in Drift restaurant that “dramatically curves from behind the bar across the entire space resembling the underbelly of a tilted ship,” explains Munge, pointing out the guestrooms modelled on ship staterooms.

Inside these rooms are landscape paintings and pottery by Atlantic Canadian artists (an extension of the onsite gallery) and custom pieces by Studio Munge, from rugs to walnut furniture like the porthole-inspired minibar.

“So much love and passion went into every detail,” says Munge, singling out the lightweight wool plaid tartans in muted tones as sensory touchpoints. “Intersecting lines form soft gradients and beautifully rift the surface into irregular sections. The unfinished short, frayed edges add a touch of romance, making this perfectly imperfect textile a story of humanity.”

Read the story by Alia Akkam in Hospitality Design magazine