Located in a small town in central China, this 4500m2 complex consists of 48 hotel rooms, restaurant with independent circulation, banquet hall, swimming pools, underground garage and spaces preserved for later phase development. This project is expected to be a local landmark and important contributor to stimulate local tourism.
Surrounded by unfinished building site, wasted land and industrial sites, this project is definitely not blessed with a beautiful site. The site area, construction budget and time are also incredibly tight and limited for the complexity of the functions. Fortunately, Taihang Mountain is still visible from the site.
Usually a hotel room would be designed as an outward box to maximize the view. As a consequence, the hotel building would be a collection of boxes. We rejected this conventional model and went back to the starting point of design: the room experience. We reinvented the actual experience in a typical unit: first, the exterior view below eye-level is blocked, while the view above is left open; then the opening is “lifted” or enlarged to invite more light and wind; at last, the full-size glass door turned the unit into a combination of interior room and exterior micro courtyard. With least possible boundaries and a visually continuous experience, the beautiful, scroll-like view of the sky and the mountain draws attention of every guest. (The silhouette of the mountain in the room opening also inspired our design of the logo and VI system.) During different times in a day, the sunlight will interact with the curved wall of the opening in different ways, producing dramatic and moving lighting effects.
The congregated room openings naturally form the facades. The exterior image is also visually connected with the gables in local villages and the outline of the mountain. The rooms facing inward of the site will share the view of the courtyard with future buildings; therefore they have much more opened enclosure.
With a very limited width, the site needs to meet the requirements of arrival and drop-off area, non-interfering circulations for room guests and restaurant guests, underground parking and a temporary parking ground in the back yard (on the part of the site preserved for second phase). The building is elevated by half-floor to perfectly solve the complexity. The lawn in front of the building is also “lifted” to provide sloped paths for entrance. The lifted ground forms abstract image of mountains, echoing the view of the real mountain farther away. Forming an abstracted version of mountain not only complies with Chinese garden making traditions, but also leads to mass balance by the reuse of the excavated masses on site. Looking out from the first floor, the transparent glass windows surrounded by translucent glass frame the view of the front yard and the mountain far away.
The strategy of “lift” is also applied to interior design: from the circulation routes in public area of the first floor, to the signage of room numbers. Even the drawers are also abstracted version of the room openings.
Using a very simple and consistent method, we invented a “room + micro-yard” model for hotel design, and transformed the disadvantage of the site into a private, nuanced, and distinctive experience. Devoid of superficial visual elements of Chinese or local culture, Sky Yards is a strong expression of the traditional Chinese garden making methodology.
Established in Shanghai in 2019, Domain Architects is a studio led by Xiaomeng Xu, operating within the boundaries of architecture, urbanism, landscape, interior, and product design. Our practice strives to reform the spatial experience with innovative site strategy.
We consider user experience as the core of all designs, and believe every site has its potential to generate unique spatial experience. By rejecting conventional models, we keep going back to the original nature of sites and programs to reinvent the logic and quality of spaces.
Xiaomeng Xu, the founder of the studio, was born in Beijing. He graduated from University of Pennsylvania with B.A. in architecture and then obtained Master of Architecture from Columbia University.
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