by Jincy IypeFeb 14, 2021
Organic and austere, this softly undulating hotel within the Dongfengyun Art Town, Mile, Yunnan Province in China strikes a thoughtful, cogent balance of vernacular heritage with contemporary finesse, its architecture conceived by Chinese artist Luo Xu, and its lighting and interior design superbly carried out by Cheng Cheng Design. The DongFengYun Hotel Mi'Le – Mgallery unfolds as a series of curving forms made of locally fired red bricks, housed in an architectural complex that form a mega land art installation by Xu, who underscores it on the concepts of “austerity, simplicity and authenticity”.
Lying at a distance is the mound-like 50% Cloud Artists Lounge, a restaurant that doubles as an art gallery, conceived by the same team and essaying a local, simple and rough materiality of local red earth bricks. As the restaurant evinces a thrumming masculinity, the recently completed hotel emerges as a grounded contrast, a maternal manifestation.
"The building seems to carry the traces of time, and seems to be kneaded by a pair of big, rough hands. It quietly lies on the red soil, showing a magnificent posture,” says the Hong Kong-based practice led by Joe Cheng.
Operated by boutique hotel brand Mgallery, the Dongfengyun Hotel Mi'Le comprises 232 rooms, two bars and restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, and meeting rooms covering 39,000 sqm of area. “Art dialogues with everything, inspiration portrays life”, is the philosophy carried by the hotel, its sober yet charming programme planned around a substantial courtyard and reachable by open-air corridors accompanied by salient arched windows and lush greens stretching as far as the eye can see.
For the restrained yet majestic interiors, Cheng Chung Design reveals that they purposefully stayed away from adopting a hyper modernised, industrial expression, opting instead to softly contrast and complement the distinctive hotel architecture, drawing from the vernacular context and leveraging simplicity and clarity via natural materials, soft lighting and a muted colour palette.
Prioritising natural lighting and a soothing ambience were some key aspirations of the hotel design, which also becomes a sort of restorative, spiritual retreat. This is witnessed in the bowl-shaped entrance atrium that features a carved out skylight at its apex, forming pleasing echoes and reflections on the shallow pool rippling directly below. Sparsely placed flowers and plants as well as the architecture are mirrored slyly on the tranquil waterscape, atmospherically expanding the area.
“Upon entering the atrium courtyard, the guests can immediately get relaxed and feel an indescribable pleasure. With natural daylight pouring in, dynamic light and shadows freely move in the space and fall on the curved enclosure wall, which appears like rippling water surface and evokes infinite imagination,” the designers say, who pared varying rhythms of light and shadow with heightened sensory experiences to create a ritualistic sense while welcoming guests into the DongFengYun Hotel Mi'Le – Mgallery.
Inspired by the ethos of “less is more”, low level illumination was incorporated for the leisure resort hotel, to produce a more natural, comfortable and warm atmosphere in lieu of harsh, heavy lighting design – direct ceiling lighting was also reduced to circumvent glare. In divergence, the artworks, signages and tabletops are done with accentuated lighting to transform them into visual highlights.
Wall washing lighting strips are installed near the floor to generate a subdued and graceful vibe, perfectly interacting with the hotel architecture. “Lighting and daylight collides with natural materials such as red bricks, rammed earth and straw-textured paint, accentuating the presence of each other,” says Cheng. Frameless black mirrored lighting fixtures are mounted in a concealed manner, where light and shadow, materials and space create a visual feast.
CCD employs plain materials such as red burnt local bricks that make friends with cement, clay and crocks, threading together luxury and simplicity and striking a balance between contemporaneity and respecting local culture. The adopted materiality also unifies the tone of the interiors, integrating the hotel as a comprehensive whole. “… (we) abandoned complex, exaggerated decorations, and intended to let every object in the space gradually reveal their authentic charm as time passes,” the design team explains as they strove to imbue the space with a naturality and glaring simplicity.
"The cement-finished backdrop wall, round columns, crock-shaped lamps and geometric front desks show sculpture-like powerful, three-dimensional and steady features. Those elements are independent and also complement each other,” they continue.
Reminiscent of grape trellis, the local red clay brick architecture combines modern innovations and old textures, abandoning cookie-cutter, severely minimal and complex expressions. Local pottery adorns the rooms inside as a way to enhance the sense of vernacular. The monikers and design of all guestrooms pay tribute to local art of painting, pottery, dyeing and composition, as well as jade and pearls. “Every detail retains the trace of local craftsmanship and secretly tells its own story,” says Cheng.
Name: DongFengYun Hotel Mi'Le - MGallery
Location: Dongfengyun Art Town, Mile, Honghe Hani & Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China
Area: 39,000 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Client: Yunnan Urban & Rural Construction Investment Co., Ltd.
Architectural design: Luo Xu
Landscape design: Yunnan Zilian Landscaping & Greening Engineering Co., Ltd.
Interior design and Lighting Design: Cheng Chung Design (CCD)
Art consulting: CCD | WOWU Art Consultancy