mirrored cocktail bar green ceiling

ARGO Hong Kong Layers Eclectic Pieces to Form a Tactile, Glamorous Whole

Overlooking Victoria Harbour, the bar contains 136 illuminated glass vitrines that hold the establishment’s collection of rare spirits.

It’s never easy when you’re asked to re-invent an icon. Yet Hong Kong architects and interior designers AB Concept didn’t hesitate when commissioned to transform the renowned Blue Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong into ARGO, an all-day dining space and cocktail bar. 

The design studio’s cofounder Ed Ng had once frequented the original bar—a sophisticated retreat designed in 2005 by Wilson Associates, often filled with patrons from the nearby financial district. He seized the opportunity to change not only the look but the layout too, shifting the bar to face the window and make the most of the spectacular Victoria Harbour views. 

But first the designers had to decide what to do with the 8.2-foot-wide concrete column in the middle of the panorama. Unable to hide the massive, load-bearing obstruction, they turned the constraint into an opportunity, making it the main element of the new double-height bar, clad with 136 illuminated glass vitrines housing the establishment’s prized collection of rare spirits. Seventy-two of the cylinders revolve and open, adding a theatrical touch.

Mirrored interior cocktail lounge
The cocktail lounge’s plush seating, hand- crafted paper insects, and mirrored surfaces all reinforce the feeling of a modern conservatory.

The designers’ exuberant flair is evident throughout the 2,745-square foot interior, including the open-plan lounge wrapped around the bar, and in the quirky, semiprivate cocktail lounge where paper sculptures in the shape of insects by Japanese-Canadian artist Raku Inoue are scattered.

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Drawing inspiration from Gilded Age botanical conservatories, ARGO—which takes its name from the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, who sailed a boat named Argo in search of the Golden Fleece—feels like a modern city garden with neoclassical architectural curves, rich textures, and soothing pastel hues. Glazed ceramic coated wallpaper covers the walls and lacquered and mirrored surfaces offset intricate marble and nickel-plated fixtures, all of which combine to provide a tactile, layered aesthetic. Almost everything is custom-designed, from the plush velvet stools and soft leather banquettes to the intriguing terraria suspended above them. Bespoke lighting fixtures, such as glowing halos that radiate around the bar column and terraria that transform into lighting at night, allow staff to adjust the atmosphere according to the mood and the time of day.

Bathroom interior with gilded mirror
The glamorous bathroom features jewel-like shapes and marble surfaces.
cylindrical glass vitrines with bottles
Many of the bar’s cylindrical glass vitrines revolve and open.

“I wanted to create an immersive space using the concept of an urban garden that unifies and allows for a smooth transition from the communal bar to the snug banquettes in the lounge and the private space into one environment, bringing different elements together in ways which could still operate at any time of day or night,” says Ng.

Working with the hotel’s beverage manager, Lorenzo Antinori, the designers devised a flexible, uncluttered layout that would facilitate easy movement and give ARGO multiple roles, from relaxing breakfast spot to late-night cocktail destination. (Inventive design features include hidden counter trays for breakfast, which get covered when mixologists take over at night.) 

“The greatest challenge is to create an interior that sparks curiosity, that makes people crave to be there,” says Ng. “For us, that meant breaking away from traditional hotel bar concepts to create something with a strong personality, but where the food and drinks are center stage,” he adds. 

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