With gathering spaces that transform into galleries and walls that metamorphose into blank canvases, The Wheat Youth Arts Hotel in China infuses vibrant and fresh sensibilities into modern day hospitality.
Designed by Shanghai-based studio X+Living, the 80-room hotel is located on the seventh floor of a shopping mall in the Binjiang district of Hangzhou. A total built-up area of 4500 sq m ensures ample room for large communal areas, spacious corridors and generous suites. Not only does the hotel target customers who are physically young, but also the young at heart. Design Director Li Xiang says, “The goal was to design a hotel that itself flirts with tourists and also becomes a place that welcomes tourists to flirt with each other.”
Upon entering the hotel lobby, guests are greeted by a pristine white wall that reads two simple words ‘Mai Jian’, (meaning Wheat). Unlike the lobbies of other lodging facilities that are usually decorated with traditional works of art, a rather peculiar piece of artwork embellishes this lobby.
An assortment of necessary guest room supplies such as cushions, slippers, a bedside lamp, a jug of water, drinking glasses, a tray of coffee mugs, cutlery and wardrobe hangers are painted in white and displayed inside a grey niche. An expansive glass panel with the word ‘hallo’ painted on it in an orange-yellow shade encases the exhibit. “This makes people feel like all the items in the guest room are gathering here to welcome them,” says the design team. Adjacent to the signage, a sleek black doorway leads guests into the main hall.
The main hall in its appearance is the marriage of a living room and a study. While the spotless white flooring creates a feeling of vastness, the industrial black ceiling immediately scales down the seeming endlessness of the space. A comfortable feeling of intimacy is achieved. Floor to ceiling bookshelves filled to the brim with a motley mix of volumes line all the walls of the space, except one. Here, like the pixels of a highly magnified image, countless rows and columns of black and beige from a Chinese Checkers board generate a picture of the world map.
“This carries a message that the hotel welcomes friends from all over the world,” says the design team. Polygonal glass partitions create seating nooks and help differentiate the reading areas from the circulation zone. The partitions resemble folded pieces of paper made to stand on their edges. Amidst this maze of notionally apportioned spaces, an austere white partition wall staggers up behind the reception desk.
A glossy black dog figuratively runs towards newcomers wagging its tail, even while his fastening chain holds him back. The sculpture segregates customers into two queues. Benches upholstered in ochre fabric together with the spines of books bring a dollop of colour into the otherwise monochrome palette.
The assembly of corridors is a sequence of stark concise pathways that powerfully wind forward and compel guests to do the same. A slender black line traces the junction between the white walls of the corridors and the ceiling. A continuous strip of cove lighting highlights the junction between the walls and the flooring. It is almost as though the walls are suspended from the roof and float above the floor. The sterility of the space is broken by light timber doors that mark the entries to the guest rooms.
A pink bicycle mounted upside-down on one of the walls commemorates the meeting point of two perpendicular corridors. Here, if not for the room numbers near every door, one is likely to feel like one is standing upside-down. Another stretch features a collage of colourful upturned Checkers pieces hanging from the ceiling. The hallways on every floor are provided with a grand piano. “This allows guests to share the charm of music and revel in the bliss of a musical communication between strangers.”
The guest rooms are a composition of grey and white walls, a backdrop against which sit a desk, bed and clothes hanger fabricated in light timber. An art easel near the window rests silently in the hope that guests will leave cherished moments behind. In keeping with the gallery theme, the TV is hidden by a huge sliding painting that reads different greetings in every room.
The design of the furniture, both functionally and aesthetically, is smart and minimalist. The soft furnishings in the bedrooms are in a variety of colours such as light pink, beige, dark grey and navy. A cushioned black headboard, similar in shape to the glass partitions in the main hall, wraps around each bed. The en-suite bathroom is separated by glass walls.
Other areas in the hotel include a coffee shop, a games room, two private study spaces with traditionally ornate bookshelves, and a small room with bicycles for spinning classes. Seven wooden figures falling from the sky with parachutes bedeck the ceiling of the dimly lit and cosy coffee shop.
“Flying is the most graceful posture to embrace the world,” says Li Xiang. A web of black lines hovers over the pool table in the games room, in harmony with the theme of unusual artwork.
Brightly hued posters that read ‘Hallo’, ‘How is it going’ ‘What’s up’ etc. spruce up the interiors. A feeling of caring communication is created as the personified words interact with the guests. The entire atmosphere of the hotel is embellished with music, painting and reading – activities that are revered by the people of China.“This is a hotel that says reaches out to the guests at every corner; a hotel that looks like a gallery; a hotel that is willing to accompany you; and a hotel that makes you want to sing a song or draw a painting for others,” explains Li Xiang.
Text By Ar. Priti Kalra
Photographs Courtesy Shao Feng