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04/01/2014

Natural Opulence

In a locals’ getaway known for its bamboo forests and spa retreats, the Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort is a landmark celebration of art, nature, and 2,300 years of rich Chinese tradition.

By Erika Templeton
Photography courtesy of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts
 

In a locals’ getaway known for its bamboo forests and spa retreats, the Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort is a landmark celebration of art, nature, and 2,300 years of rich Chinese tradition.

Soaring 300 feet above Taihu Lake in Huzhou, China, the Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort’s connecting curved towers (dubbed Crystal and Jade) represent a lofty architectural intervention, one that stands out in striking modernity, while blending seamlessly with the landscape. Viewed upon approach, the blue glow of the arched resort reflects off the surface of the lake, completing the image of a full ring—a carefully chosen expression of traditional Chinese symbolism, inspired by the classic Taoist moon bridges that cross the many outlets of the Yangtze River Delta.

“Light interacts with water and, through the hollow within the ring, we can glimpse the sky and water in the distance,” said lead architect Ma Yanson, founder of MAD Studio. “Hence, this hotel doubles as an artistic installation that enhances the natural views, instead of destroying them.”

Yanson’s rule-bending design has captured the attention of architectural communities the world over. The complex is considered the most architecturally innovative property in Sheraton Hotels’ global portfolio.

Inside, Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) continues Yanson’s story, adding a layer of richness and luster heavily influenced by traditional Chinese symbolism, while maintaining a bold grasp on the modern perspective.

Upon entering the resort, guests are greeted by an undeniably opulent lobby (shown on pg. 46). Here, 20,000 Swarovski and European crystal lamps shimmer and wave above floors of Afghan White Jade and Brazilian Tiger’s Eye—outdone only by the lobby’s centerpiece: a 28-ton Persian Jade Rough, crowned the “Holy Jade,” hundreds of thousands of years in the making.

On toward the Grand Ballroom, the lobby porticos and ceiling are all laid with Citrine, a jade that symbolizes success, abundance, and prosperity. Reception and concierge desks decorated with red rose cryolite and Silk Road cryolite pay homage to Huzhou’s historical importance as the starting point of the Silk Road.

Because of the unique shape and structure of the building’s guest towers, all 282 rooms had to be individually rendered, providing guests with a broad range of possible experiences—though jade embellishments, marble bathrooms, and customized, imported furniture remain a constant throughout.

The exquisite materiality and organic composition of these spaces offers guests an additional level of luxury, while reinforcing the project’s reverence for Huzhou’s natural environment as a means of creating exceptional guest experiences on its own.

Now, two years after its opening, the resort complex boasts an additional 12,000 square meters of space, including 39 hot spring villas, a mystic spa village, a 40-pool hot spring facility with a convertible sky ceiling, and a yacht dock. Here, the lines between natural formation and formulated space blend and disappear altogether—and Yanson’s original intent is as strong as it ever was, whether it is his hand in the design or someone new.