The Shanghai-based Neri&Hu Design and Research Office has conceived and constructed a boutique hotel in cultured Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, around a series of small lakes, comprising a grid of dark-brick walls that surround a series of traditional courtyards, gardens, guest rooms and service areas.

The design brief called for the adaptive reuse of several of the old houses by giving them new functions, while adding new buildings to accommodate the hotel’s capacity needs. Neri&Hu’s strategy to unify these scattered elements was to overlay a grid of walls and paths onto the site to tie the entire project together, resulting in multiple courtyard enclosures. The inspiration for the design actually originates with the courtyard house typology of vernacular Chinese architecture. The courtyard gives hierarchy to the spaces, frames views of the sky and earth, encapsulates landscape into architecture, and creates an overlap between interior and exterior.
Constructed entirely from reclaimed grey brick, the gridded walls’ narrow interior passageway forces a long perspective, while light plays off the various brick patterns, enticing guests to venture ever deeper into the project. Within the walls, several of the courtyards are occupied by guest rooms and other shared amenities such as the reception, library, and restaurant. Hotel guests traverse the site using the walled pathways to discover their rooms; journeying along the walls, they can also ascend through openings above to gain privileged vantage points that look out across the gridded landscape and beyond to the surrounding lakes.
Three additional buildings take their place in the panorama: the rising second floor of the largest courtyard building, a lakeside pavilion of four guestrooms, and a multifunction building at the furthest reaches of the site.
With this project, Neri&Hu’s ambition lies in utilizing a strong landscape element, the wall and courtyard, to unify a complex site and program, while the rustic materiality and layered spaces seek to redefine tradition with a modern architectural language

photo: Pedro Pegenaute

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