But this becomes crystal clear when faced with building on undesirable surrounds – think sparse land, an unfinished construction site and waste – which was the challenge Domain Architects was tasked with Sky Yards Hotel. Such a challenge would require them to think out of the norm, so they rejected the typical notion of hotel rooms designed as an outward box to maximize the view – instead, the design premise would be based on a collection of opened boxes.
The architects 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,” explains Xiaomeng Xu, the founder of the studio based in Shanghai.
A picturesque all white exterior emerges as a continuous experience, with seemingly punctuated balconies framing the distant scenery in a “beautiful, scroll-like view of the sky and the mountain.” Throughout the day, sunlight hits the distinct facades in various ways, producing dramatic, moving shadows that create rhythmical dynamism to building.
This “lifting” methodology has also been applied to the lawn in front of the building, providing sloped paths for the entrance – the lifted ground forms an abstract image of mountains, echoing the view of the real mountain farther away. Forming an abstracted version of the mountain leads to mass balance by the reuse of the excavated masses on site.
From the first floor, the transparent glass windows surrounded by translucent glass frame the view of the front yard and the mountain far away. As well, “lifting” is imminent throughout the interior design: from the circulation routes in the public area of the first floor to the signage of room numbers on guest floors. Even the counter desk in the restaurant and the drawer handles in the rooms are formed by this strategy.
Xu concludes, “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 the Chinese or local culture, Sky Yards Hotel evokes the traditional Chinese garden making methodology of concealing and revealing.”