An authentic luxury retreat in rural China, the Wuyuan Skywells Hotel captures the essence of a bygone era in the millennium-old Yan village. The light modern interventions introduced into the 300-year-old historic building provides a taste of 21st century comfort necessary in the transformation of the building for hospitality use.
The Skywells project by anySCALE focused on the preservation rather than the modernization of a 300-year-old Huizhou-style property deep in East China’s Jiangxi Province, something that has not gone unnoticed as the project continues its winning streak in this year’s design awards circuit. The hotel is named after the English translation of “Tian Jing” - a regional architectural feature comprising of narrow courtyards that let daylight into surrounding rooms.
A couple earlier based in Shanghai, the clients used their life savings to purchase the property and turn it around while acting as custodians rather than gentrifying hoteliers.
One of the key requirements was to preserve not only the recoverable artefacts but to also recreate the grandeur and elegance that was associated with the mansion. Having once served as an inn for merchants traversing through the region, the building had suffered much neglect for most of the 20th century and was also a haven for Chinese soldiers fighting the Japanese invasion of the mainland.
The team executed in a manner that respected and honored the local architectural history and features and restore in a manner where current and future generations could understand and appreciate traditional design. This necessitated the sacrifice of methods that would marry modern and traditional features in ways that may seem appealing to the reigning aesthetic but would, however, destroy the intrinsic value of the property.
Original and traditional elements in public areas were retained while the more private spaces for guests were contemporized with playful fittings and modern-day amenities, with the interior design of the 14 suites dominated by a mélange of warm and cool neutrals interspersed with occasional bright accent colors.
Honors won so far include an ICONIC award, a RED DOT award, and an ABB LEAF award.
Photo: Marc Goodwin and Xia Zhi