From eyesore to Bristol icon
The exterior has already been transformed from that of a drab 1960s office block into a striking landmark covered in 1,350 panels of glass in shades of blue.
And yesterday it became clear that a dramatic metamorphosis has also taken place inside the former headquarters of the Bristol and West building society, when the interior of the £20 million Radisson Blu hotel was revealed for the first time to the Evening Post.
Inside what was infamously regarded as the ugliest building in Bristol, there are now new carpets in bold designs and colourful furnishings – some by the Italian fashion designer Rosita Missoni.
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"It's wonderful to see it all coming together," says Michael Rathgeb, general manager of the hotel, as we walk through what would once have been open-plan offices filled with workers sitting at desks.
"We didn't expect it to take this long, but it has been worth the wait to get this outcome."
The Radisson Blu hotel, on Broad Quay, was originally scheduled to open in the summer of 2008, but it is now set to open on July 15.
Building work was delayed after the top eight floors of the building suffered water damage in May 2008, when rainwater outlets on the roof were unable to cope with a freak downpour.
However, as teams of workmen painted and plastered walls yesterday, the multi-million pound conversion of the office block into a hotel with apartments on either side seemed to be close to completion at last.
When the hotel is finished, there will be 176 bedrooms, five suites, conference facilities and the biggest spa in Bristol, with 10 treatment rooms, a sauna and a steam room. It will bring around 45 new jobs to Bristol.
An extensive balcony has been built around the old Bristol and West tower, which leads from the conference rooms and also provides an area for a hot tub outside the spa.
Mr Rathgeb has previously worked, for hotels in locations including Bahrain, Sharm El Sheikh, Vienna and Stockholm – as well on the luxury cruise liner the Queen Elizabeth 2. So how does the new Radisson Blu in Bristol compare?
"This is going to be the best of the lot, there's no comparison," says Mr Rathgeb, who is originally from Germany.
What is his favourite part of the hotel? "I think it's all fantastic, from top to bottom," he says.
"I originally trained as a chef, so I really like the new kitchens. The feature slate wall in the bar with an illuminated wine cabinet is also spectacular.
"But if I had to choose a favourite area, it would probably be the Harbourside Suite because of the amazing views and space inside it."
The Harbourside Suite is the largest and most luxurious of the five suites at the Radisson Blu, all of which have their own staircases and balconies with panoramic views across Bristol.
The maisonette suites were created by building an additional floor on top of the 200ft high building – turning it into an 18-storey building, and making it the tallest hotel in Bristol.
Prices for the Harbourside Suite start from £233 a night, and prices for the four other maisonette suites start from £140 a night. Double rooms at the Radisson Blu are from £79 at weekends.
Kathrin Cockhill, director of sales and marketing, at the Radisson Blu hotel, says: "We've already had enquiries from couples about using the Harbourside Suite as their honeymoon suite, and there has even been interest in getting married on the balcony and having their reception there."
The 176 hotel rooms have been designed in three different styles: Chic, Fresh and Fashion, with the latter being designed by leading Italian designer Rosita Missoni.
All rooms and suites are equipped with flat-screen televisions, free high-speed internet access, espresso machines, bathrobes and slippers.
Each of the bedrooms will feature bathrooms made in the Czech Republic and driven across Europe via the Channel Tunnel to Bristol, before being slid into place in each of the rooms.
The transformation of the former Bristol and West headquarters into a hotel marks the latest change in the fortunes of the building.
When it was constructed in 1968, the design was considered so avant-garde that architecture students were bussed in from across the UK to see "the future of Bristol".
But as the years passed the stark 1960s architectural style became unfashionable, and the drab grey facade looming over the city centre contrasted unfavourably with the regeneration taking place around Bristol's waterfront.
It was nearly demolished in 2003, but a motion to knock it down, which was put forward at the council's central planning committee, was defeated by just one vote.
However, the building has been transformed by the installation of around 1,350 glazed panels in different shades of blue, with darker glass nearer the ground and lighter panels towards the top, which give the illusion that the tower is merging into the sky.