Guangzhou, historically Romanised as Canton, is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in south-eastern China. Seated on the Pearl River, 120 kms north-west of Hongkong and 145 kms north of Macau, this third largest Chinese city was a major terminus of the maritime Silk Road and continues to serve as a major port and transportation hub.
Located in a humid, sub-tropical climate zone with plenty of sunshine and rainfall, the best time to visit is during the autumn and winter seasons that last from October to March. During this period temperatures are mild and rainfall is low. The hottest months are those between June and September with several typhoons every year from April to September.
A giant metropolis, Guangzhou is home to both gleaming towers and leafy alleys. Its history as a strategic trade port to the South China Sea has afforded it a colonial background and a culturally diverse population that lends it its cosmopolitan flair. Nicknamed the ‘Flower City’, the weather acts as the perfect catalyst to its beautiful blooms.
Challenging definitions of hotel design, the global firm HBA sets new peripheries for avant-garde with the Four Seasons Hotel in Guangzhou. Remarkable for both its climbing height and contemporary design, the hotel rises 103 stories above the Pearl River looking down on its architecturally significant neighbours like Zaha Hadid’s Opera House, Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei’s New Library and Hong Kong based Rocco Design Architects’ cubic Guangdong Museum.
The project is architecturally dramatic for its triangular tower, diagonal lattice and soaring thirty floor high atrium. A dedicated express elevator takes you to the 70th floor lobby where a sensational three meter red steel structure by Australian artist, Matthew Harding doesn’t fail to impress. The incredible naturally lit atrium is enveloped by restaurants and rooms.
The intricately textured screen fabricated out of woven metal, wraps around the interior of the sky-high lobby. In a subtle reference to the hotel brand, the screen is themed around the four seasons from spring in the basement to fall in the upper reaches.
Its 344 guest rooms feature modern Italian furniture and contemporary Chinese art. On the 99th floor, discs of rare, multi-coloured agate cover an illuminated counter at Tian Bar, one of the hotel’s six spots for food and drink.
A Fluid Architectural Prelude
Like pebbles in a stream smoothened by erosion, the Guangzhou Opera House by architect, Zaha Hadid has settled in perfect harmony with its riverside location.
This iconic piece of architecture sits at the heart of the city’s cultural development with its unique twin-boulder design enhancing the city by opening it up to the Pearl River. A design particularly influenced by river valleys, engages with the principles of erosion, geology and topography.
The statement design inspired by natural landscape depicts fold lines that define territories and zones within the Opera House, cutting dramatic interior and exterior canyons for circulation, lobbies and cafes also allowing natural light to filter in. Custom moulded glass-fibre reinforced gypsum units have been used for the interiors of the auditorium to continue the architectural language of fluidity and seamlessness.
Afloat And Alight
Functioning on the idea that ‘countless fibres of light envelop guests’, the FEI resto-bar at W Hotel is a suspended three storey glowing glass loft that pulses nightly with an in-house band and innovative cocktails. The stunning execution of the idea by A.N.D. helped it bag the Best Restaurant & Bar Design Award, 2014.
A large cubic lounge seems to float in the middle of the hotels façade. It covers the enormous 18 meters in cold, lifeless glass walls which come alive with the help of a film of warm tender light. The first concept undertaken was to cover the massive structural glass opening with a new soft organic lighting skin so guests are enveloped in a constantly changing circle of sparkling light.
The second was to install multiple layers of both the horizontal floor and the perpendicular walls in the space surrounded by light. When viewed from the outside, the film creates a glittering façade that draws people into the property.
The Zhongshuge-Hangzhou book store marks its presence with a glass wall that runs along a concourse covered with texts. Taking its cue from unbounded nature, the design draws you into a forest of books where display columns are dispersed randomly to evoke a replica of trees. White strip lights lining the book shelves complement the entering daylight.
The wall mirror doubles the transverse dimension of the space. An opening in the mirrored wall leads to the ‘Reading Corridor’ which offers a more intimate location for browsing the displayed titles. The shelf lined surfaces continue along the oval walls of the ‘Reading Theatre’ accessible from the corridor.
Both feature dark wood and ambient lighting. The final room is dedicated to children containing displays shaped like trains and rollercoasters. Once again the mirrored surfaces double the perceived volume of the store including the merry-go-round shelving.
Text By Kanupriya Pachisia