An ever-increasing number of Asian names is appearing on the rosters of the world’s top architects – and many of them are plying their trade by designing top hotels in the region. We highlight the standouts.
China’s homegrown architecture is surging ahead – and so is a growing passion for preservation. Singapore-based Alila Hotels chose Dong Gong of Chinese firm Vector Architects to repurpose a former brick-built sugar mill and add new, concrete-clad buildings to house its 117 industrial-chic guestrooms beside the Li river. Acrylic flooring reveals the original foundations, while Mao-era Communist slogans stencilled on the walls have been preserved. Against the dramatic backdrop of Yangshuo’s karst limestone mountains, Dong transformed the original loading dock into an infinity pool. Inside, another domestic firm, Horizontal Space Design, refashioned the former refining room into a cocktail lounge.
Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort
Don’t expect traditional glazed roof tiles to appear on the eye-popping edifices of Ma Yansong – but this architect’s style is distinctly Chinese nonetheless. Representing a new generation of homegrown talent, Beijing-based Ma creates out-of-the-box buildings that reflect traditional Eastern notions of nature within complex, even surreal structures. This 27-storey aluminium-and-glass-clad hotel appears to hover above Taihu Lake, an hour north of Hangzhou. Ma says its horseshoe shape was inspired by traditional Chinese moon bridges, whose reflection in the still waters forms a harmonious, unbroken ring. The interiors, too, make a statement, from the lobby decked out with a 28-tonne jade sculpture imported from Iran to a light fixture fashioned from more than 20,000 Swarovski crystals.
Residence G Hong Kong
Philippine-born Lyndon Neri and Taiwan’s Rossana Hu were educated in the US but joined forces in Shanghai to create Neri&Hu, one of the region’s most prolific architecture and design firms. For Residence G’s conversion from unassuming office tower into a 38-room hotel in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, the pair opted for a predominantly black-and-white colour scheme offset with concrete, wood and metalwork: a tribute both to Hong Kong’s movie-making heritage and Kowloon’s industrial bustle. The hotel’s young clientele congregates after dark on the third floor’s open-air terrace. But the urban hangout vibe masks the hotel’s popularity as a long-stay business hotel, for which the designers incorporated up-to-the-minute technology which is matched by understated yet efficient service.
High on a hilltop carpeted with pine and rhododendron, Malaysian architect Yew Kuan Cheong crafted this wood and stone lodge from locally sourced materials. All 11 of its rooms and villas boast majestic vistas encompassing snow-capped mountains, the glacial waters of the Mo Chu River, apple orchards and terraced rice fields. Guests return from mountain treks and white-water rafting to unwind in these spare, light-flooded private sanctuaries centred around plump beds and Bhutanese wood stoves. Cheong’s thoughtful placement of windows welcomes optimal sunlight and natural breezes. The in-house COMO Shambhala Retreat spa features a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath, prepared with camphor leaves foraged from the surrounding forests. Bali- and Singapore-based Cheong also designed Uma’s sister lodge in Paro, a five-hour drive to the southwest.
Flights per week from Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific: Bangkok: 67
Cathay Dragon: Guilin: 7; Hangzhou: 28
Flight and hotel packages are available from Cathay Pacific Holidays