Domain Architects: Special Mention of World Design Awards 2021. Located in a small town in central China, this 4900m2 complex consists of 48 hotel rooms, a restaurant with independent circulation, a banquet hall, swimming pools, underground parking and spaces preserved for later phase development.
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. Fortunately, Taihang Mountain is still visible from the site.
Usually a hotel room would be designed as an outward box to maximize the view. Consequently, a typical hotel building would be a collection of opened 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 air; at last, full-size glass doors divided the unit into a combination of interior room and exterior micro courtyard, while the boundary in between is highly blurred. With imperceptible boundaries and a visually continuous experience, the beautiful, scroll-like view of the sky and the mountain powerfully draws attentions. During different times in a day, the sunlight interacts with the curved wall of the opening in different ways, producing dramatic and moving atmosphere.
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”, providing 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.
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 pleasantly unfamiliar and distinctive experience. Devoid of superficial visual elements of Chinese or local culture, Sky Yards evokes the traditional Chinese garden making methodology of concealing and revealing.
Sky Yards Hotel
World Design Awards Category
Xiaomeng Xu, Chun Wang, Hannah Wang
Established in Shanghai, 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. 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.