Western Hills in the western part of Beijing where the Old Summer Palace is located—is far from the hustle and bustle of the city. This project is a combination of cultural elements of Western Hills and modern oriental design techniques. The moment people enter the space, they feel as if they have walked into a beautiful painting that features both ancient elegance and modern freedom.
“Let me forget my worldly worries and find peace in the woods of the Western Hills; the white clouds seem to have read my mind, and drift slowly down from the forest to keep me company.” The entrance of the main building is a pure white concave space inwardly structured of transparent glass structure. The white clouds that fill this space are assembled with 3D printed modern crosses.
The main building consists of two stories, a basement and first floor connected by the elegantly designed spiral stairs at the entrance. “Less is more.” Lines are few but functional and make the whole space simple but attractive. The 3D printed clouds are also seen in the basement. They are scattered in untrammeled forms, either floating above, rising from the ground, or as an element of the water view design.
“Clouds change endlessly; back and forth they float ethereally.” The unrestrained and free nature of clouds forms a poetic and peaceful world together with the buildings and environment. The atrium is a downward and void enclosed space. It may look at first glance appear lofty and cold, but it is breathtaking in understanding its portrayal of the complex relationship between the Western Hills and modern culture.
The arch that connects the atrium and the outside space is inspired by the screen wall of traditional Chinese architecture. The arch is designed to create a sense of ceremony. Passing through the arch, one enters the atrium, a world of comfort. The ceiling and carpet together form a vast world reminiscent of “heaven and earth”. The design of the whole space features undecorated minimalism. It may appear simple but is of elaborate thought.
The blank areas are reserved for humanistic details. The grayish white walls are mostly covered with linen. The soft linen and the hard copper fringe accent a better sense of space. The senses of sight, hearing, and touch are all taken into account when designing these blank areas. Gray is widely used in design to break through the restraints of closed space and create a poetic and oriental world that speaks of the endlessness of time and space.
The space is divided either with simple walls or elegant designs of glass. The two pairs of VIP rooms on the first floor are just separated by a window artfully assembled with six pieces of glass. This glass allows people to see one another in rooms, but only vaguely as described in the Chinese classic A Dream of Red Mansions: “Truth becomes fiction when fiction is true; reality becomes unreal when the unreal is real.”
Maybe the sudden realization that life is like a dream and the best policy is to stay half awake and half dreaming in life. The two VIP rooms, Heavenly View and Jade Capital form the core and highlight of the central area. The two rooms are of heavy colors for the most part. The wide use of dark brown and gold, the conspicuous dragon design, and the metallic back cover of the sofa all demonstrate the nobility of Western Hills and the authentic Chinese culture.
To match the cultural uniqueness of Western Hills, all the interior design is styled as that of the Imperial Palace. The walls of the VIP rooms are decorated with hand-painted ink landscape paintings. The lamps of the corridor are decorated with a copper net to produce a shadowy light on the wall— inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns. The lamps are installed low to increase the loftiness of the space.
As for the names of the two VIP rooms, they originate in the culture of Western Hills and highlight the oriental features and imperial grandeur. The basement, atrium, and entrance are ones first experience in quietness, then loftiness and openness, and finally quietness again. Everything is so peaceful. “A drop of water, a leaf, a cloud and the vast heaven and earth are all seen as a harmonious whole right here.
This is poetry, this is art.”I’ve always been trying to combine traditional Chinese cultural and philosophical elements with modern design techniques. In this space, no obvious Chinese symbols can be seen but their beauty is felt everywhere. I want my design to be about now and the future. That’s what I’ve been trying to achieve. Source by W. DESIGN.
- Location: Beijing, China
- Architect: W. DESIGN Co., Ltd
- Area: 1911 square meters
- Time of Completion: May 2016
- Photographs: Ben Wu, Fang Ze, Sui Sicong, Courtesy of W. DESIGN
Article by Marco Rinaldi