Guilin, Guangxi, China
Gong Dong and his design team at Vector Architects have completed the transformation of an old sugar mill into a new hotel for Alila Hotels and Resorts.
Surrounded by a picturesque natural landscape, Alila Yangshuo is located in a col near Li River in Yangshuo, Guangxi—one of the most typical karst regions.
The old sugar mill, built in the 1960s, is beautifully preserved, with an industrial truss used for sugar cane transport.
For this project, Dong envisioned preserving industrial the heritage as the main strategy for this redesign.
Flanked with a newly-added suite building and a villa, the old sugar mill and industrial truss occupy the central part of the hotel complex.
The sunken plaza and reflecting pond further accentuate the spiritual symbolism and significance of the old structure.
In order to create a sense of consistency, instead of simply copying the old materiality and texture, the architects sought a nuance for contemporary materials and construction methods while retaining the tinge and masonry structure of the old.
Hollow concrete block and wood-formed cast-in-place concrete serve to make the new volume more light and transparent visually without disturbing the existing order but enhancing natural lighting and ventilation at the same time.
The architects keep the profile of the new building as simple as possible, avoiding any over-expressive geometry, in order to avoid any unnecessary distraction with the old sugar mill.
The roof slope is consistent with the original one; after the completion of the hotel complex, its profile becomes a cluster of pitched roofs.
The idea was to keep the new as progressively evolved while conveying a sophisticated consistency with the old.
The architects envisioned the site as a garden for guests to wander and ponder: old sugar mill, industrial truss, new volumes, reflecting pond, and path define spaces of different kinds.
Two circulation systems pass up and through the suite building: one being a completely functional corridor system while the other serving as a free public walkway, connecting three important cave-like node spaces.
The public walkway is the extension of the promenade experience on the ground level.
Wandering around the resort hotel, guests experience the alternation of light and dark, change of framed landscape views, distance, and elevation.
The site is surrounded by karst peaks, facing Li River to the south and a busy driveway to the north.
Between the horizontality of the architecture and the verticality of the karst mountains, there is an interaction of the man-made and the natural.
The public walkway is artificialized and geometric version of a pathway and cave carved into the karst mountain since ancient times.
The caves are carefully located so that they visually connect architectural space with natural mountainscape.
Project: Alila Yangshuo Hotel
Architects: Vector Architects
Principal Architect: Gong Dong
Design Team: Bin He, Nan Wang, Chen Liu, Fangzhou Zhu, Xiangdong Kong, Peng Zhang, Liangliang Zhao, Jian Wang, Mengyao Xu, Yue Han, Zhiyong Liu, Bai Li, and Xiaokai Ma
Interior Design Team: Jinjing Wei, Yaocheng Wei, Hongming Nie, Luokai Zhang, Fanyu Luo, and Wenjun Zhou
Site Architects Team: Liangliang Zhao, Peng Zhang, Yingfa Li, and Xipu Li
Interior Architects: Bin JuHorizontal Space Design
Landscape Architects: Qianbai Yu and Yingying Xiao
Structural Engineers: Guilin Institute of Architectural Design Co., Ltd.
Client: Landmark Tourism Investment Company
Photographers: Shengliang Su and Hao Chen