Taking inspiration from the ancient Chinese Walled city, Neri&Hu Design and Research Office designed the Sanya Wellness Retreat in Haitang bay on Hainan Island, a popular resort destination in China. Elevated on a heavy plinth, the walls usually serve as a protection against the surrounding water. The studio designed the hotel with two parts, the wooden dwelling comprising guest rooms perches atop a masonry base that contains all the public spaces below.
The hotel is composed of two L-shaped building volumes that come together to form a water courtyard. This is the central feature from which all the hotel’s public amenities spread and emanate outwards. The lobby becomes a garden landscape with a floating lantern hovering above that allows a gentle light to filter in. Neri&Hu explains that the soft breeze that flows through transports guests to a relaxed state of mind for appreciating the slow pace of island life. This area also has low and suppressed ceilings to simultaneously frame views outward to the azure seas beyond.
“At every given opportunity, the design tries to embody the genius loci of Hainan, to blend elements from the island’s collective memory, culture and natural features,” Neri&Hu explains. The masonry walls enveloping the lower levels are clad with handmade clay bricks, while the fabrics and rugs are inspired by textile arts of the Li minority tribe. These choices of materials are the studio’s way to tap into local craftsmanship.
Additionally, Neri&Hu employed the technique of soaking and pressing bamboo as a building material. Woven rattan and yellow bronze accents, meanwhile, enhance the layers to the project.
For the guest rooms, the design team conceived each unit as an individual wooden hut that contains functional amenities, like the washrooms. The sleeping and relaxing zones, including the ocean view balconies, lie in the negative space between the wooden boxes.
The hotel also showcases an alternating rhythm between solid and void. Neri&Hu created angled walls and textured material expressions that all contribute to a dynamic façade that is constantly playing with light and shadow. The corridor between the bedroom units becomes an urban streetscape, an alley where people can traverse and enjoy chance encounters, as such are the delights of being a traveler.
Photos Courtesy of Neri&Hu Design and Research Office