Construction Team 1: Beijing Beimeng International Architectural Engineering CO., LTD
Construction Team 2: Hongya Bamboo Era Science and Technology Co., LTD
Site Area: 2100 sqm
Text description provided by the architects. WHY Hotel is a hot spring hotel located in the northeast Beijing suburb of Peking Backyard. ELEV/WEI Architects was initially hired to renovate an existing structure of 20+ rooms and add seven new units on top of an existing parking area, without any major changes to the cartoon theme of the hotel. However, the owners of WHY Hotel are a group of daring businessmen in their early thirties: once open communication was established between the clients and architect, they quickly agreed to transform the project from a cartoon-themed agritainment style hotel to a design-focused boutique hotel, unified by a beautiful bamboo grove.
The new design of WHY Hotel bridges traditional Chinese architecture and contemporary Beijing. We have described the experience of the new design in the spirit of the famous ancient poet, Yuanming Tao (AD352 - AD427) in his piece “The Peach Colony”:
Walking along the path with trees rustling, water rippling, and tree shadows dancing, the guest feels as though the buildings became indistinct among the bamboo leaves. After a turn, there is a pond with a thin and delicate mist hovering above the spring water.
The design team confronted many issues due to the condition of the existing buildings and site. The original hotel was built hastily without planning or architectural drawings, resulting in rooms of varying size and orientation with no foundation structure. Additionally, the allotted site was very tight to fit seven standard rooms with private jacuzzis and while ensuring complete visual privacy from the other rooms. The new construction also needed to serve as a striking visual image for the new hotel, but I felt that a single building with an expressive roof, though an easier path for conforming to the site constraints, did not allow for the full potential of the design. Standing at the pond and looking out onto the new site of the hotel, I envisioned small houses scattered throughout a bamboo grove.
We began with an analysis of the programmatic requirements of the new units, separating the basic functions of bedroom, toilet space, private jacuzzi, and space for meditation into individual units with the minimum required space. We then analyzed the site, studying the lighting conditions, the relationship with surrounding buildings, and the way in which humans move through the site. Last, I departed from our analytical process and placed the units intuitively. By scattering the buildings both vertically and horizontally throughout the site, I was able to recreate my vision of individual houses amidst a bamboo grove within the constraints of the allotted site.
Working from this initial design, the team optimized the organization of the units to accommodate our site analysis and the technological, material, and functional needs of each building. Our bamboo steel engineers translated our digital model into a complete structural model to enable them to send datasheets to their factory in Szechuan province. Each piece was made to specification in the factory and transported back to Beijing, where it was precisely assembled according to the design.
When we saw the completed work, we found that the seemingly random spaces between each unit had achieved what our firm has been studying all these years: the suffused space. This space is shapeless but omnipresent, shifting and interacting with each human differently. Though architecture inevitably results in a tangible form, I hope that the form is only a framework through which we can offer the invisible suffused space that is the true soul and spirit of our architecture. As said by the Diamond Sutra, “Everything with form is unreal; if all forms are seen as unreal, the Tathagata will be perceived.”
Our team aspires to create an architecture that exists in harmony with the landscape and guests. Rather than designing forms, we aspire to create cinematic experiences, designing spaces that inspire emotion, routes full of change, scenes that arouse sentiment, and unique social encounters. This aspiration was a driving force in the landscape design of the central public space of the hotel. In the center of the courtyard is a hot spring pool, filling the courtyard with warm steam throughout the year. Two sets of paths weave through the courtyard amidst the bamboo grove: a central path encircling the hot spring pool and a second path connectingeach independent courtyard to the central space.The elegant dance between these paths required two monthsof careful iteration by the design team. A system of sprayers produces mist in the bamboo groves to maintain adequate humidity.
Meandering through the bamboo, guests can see only mist and the indistinct form of the hotel units beyond the dense grove. The experience invokes the writings of the famous ancient Chinese author Zongyuan Liu, who wrote in his Travel Notes of Little Stone Pond: “across the bamboo grove, I heard the sound of water.” The walker’s view clearsupon reaching the hot spring pool, where an undulating wall of vertical bamboo steel planks encircles the public area to create privacy for the hotel units. Privacy for each unit is created through the carefully designed angle of each vertical bamboo piece, as well as through the electric glass in the doors and windows in each room. With this technology, guests curate their visual interaction with the central landscape by adjusting the transparency of the apertures.