Heyue Hui Pavilion marries Chinese dynastic identities and contemporary elegance

Celebrating the cultural legacy of the city of Xi'an in China, this restaurant design reinterprets traditional Chinese architectural elements in a contemporary vein.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Aug 22, 2022

Xi'an, the capital of China's Shaanxi Province, was a major seat of power at different points during the country’s millennia-long history, counted among the 'Four Great Ancient Capitals' alongside Beijing, Nanjing, and Luoyang. Particularly noteworthy during its tenure as a capital for the Tang Dynasty, the city is home to a number of important cultural sites including Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army as well as the start of the ancient Silk Road which are both now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While conceptualising a new restaurant design in the city’s southeastern quarter, Chinese design practice HONG Designworks called upon the cultural significance of the city to formulate a scheme that fused imagery related to dynastic identities from Chinese architecture and history with contemporary sensibilities and a touch of luxury.

The reception area is a courtyard-esque space enclosed by layers of wooden lattice screens | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
The reception area is a courtyard-esque space enclosed by layers of wooden lattice screens Image: © HONG Designworks

Chinese designer Dang Ming, who leads the firm, viewed this approach as a balanced way to marry contextual relevance and celebrate Xi’an’s legacy as a pivotal urban centre during the period of imperial rule in China while also firmly rooting the project in its own time. The project is itself situated near the Qujiang Royal Garden from the time of the Tang dynasty. However, the interior design does not solely ground itself in this theme, but rather, combines it with aesthetic features of Chinese art deco to craft spaces that ooze a sophisticated elegance. This idea is evident right from the get go at the reception which has been configured as a courtyard-like space with three entrances, screened by layers of wooden partitions featuring Chinese lattice patterns.

  • A wood finished staircase with strip lighting in its railing leads to the upper level | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    A wood finished staircase with strip lighting in its railing leads to the upper level Image: © HONG Designworks
  • The design blends traditional references with contemporary sensibilities | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    The design blends traditional references with contemporary sensibilities Image: © HONG Designworks

Imagery of landscapes as depicted in traditional Chinese watercolour and ink paintings dresses the walls of this space, fostering ties to the region’s natural environment. Textured eave finishes and brass outlines along the vermillion-toned façade embody the design's blending of classical aesthetics and minimalistic modernity, conveying the regal aura of the Tang dynasty. Wall murals of dragons as well as geometric lattice railings and Chinese calligraphy decorate the surfaces of this space.

  • The public area is centred on a sculptural red glazed chandelier | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    The public area is centred on a sculptural red glazed chandelier Image: © HONG Designworks
  • Green wall tiles and red lattice screens evoke touches of Chinese art deco | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    Green wall tiles and red lattice screens evoke touches of Chinese art deco Image: © HONG Designworks

A wood-finished staircase with strip lighting embedded into its railing acts as a break from this aesthetic, leading into the public area on the first floor. Here, a sculptural chandelier with an organic form in glazed red - a texture that is ubiquitous in Eastern design - steals the spotlight, as the focus of the entire space. Combined with green wall tiles and lattice windows, this arrangement puts its own spin on Chinese art deco with its abundance of intricate geometric motifs, highlighting the craftsmanship and attention to detail involved in realising this space.

  • Stone tiles, brass, and wood define the majority of the material palette on the walls and floors | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    Stone tiles, brass, and wood define the majority of the material palette on the walls and floors Image: © HONG Designworks
  • Woven screens modulate the sense of transparency and enclosure within spaces | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    Woven screens modulate the sense of transparency and enclosure within spaces Image: © HONG Designworks

Concerning the material palette, contrasts between the more elegant and delicate appearance of the wood screens against the roughness of the stone tiles and brass accents produces an effect that is both in tune with nature as well as the larger historical and cultural narrative it is attempting to portray. Warm colours take precedence in most sections, with red hues dominating in particular. This is supplemented by injections of green, lapis lazuli, and brass.

  • A more classically-themed style is seen in the VIP area | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    A more classically-themed style is seen in the VIP area Image: © HONG Designworks
  • Warm colours take precedence throughout most parts of the design scheme | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    Warm colours take precedence throughout most parts of the design scheme Image: © HONG Designworks
  • Spaces overlook gardens outside through large glass windows | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
    Spaces overlook gardens outside through large glass windows Image: © HONG Designworks

Hints of a more classical style are seen in the VIP room, which hosts sculptural lanterns in gridded brass that diverge from its more solid and weighty applications in other parts of the design. In fact, the lightness of the fixtures here, due to their latticed structures, is echoed in other elements such as woven partitions and blinds that conceal large glass windows, connecting the space to the gardens outside. External seating is made up of gauze and fabric with brass for structural implements. Spatial segregation here varies in opacity from the translucency of the woven screens to the clear glass and opaque wood at opposing ends of the spectrum, generating an air of mystery.

The VIP room features lanterns in gridded brass | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
The VIP room features lanterns in gridded brass Image: © HONG Designworks

In its function as a hospitality design space, Heyue Hui Pavilion strives to "redefine tradition and transcend it" rather than purely rehashing it through surface level ornamentation. Skilfully melding references, innovation, and reinvention through a plethora of intricate details that toe the line between old and new, the restaurant design is a relevant example of a growing trend in Chinese architecture and design where the past is informing a distinct and contextually pertinent vision of the future.

Heyue Hui Pavilion aims to “redefine tradition and transcend it” | Heyue Hui Pavilion | HONG Designworks | STIRworld
Heyue Hui Pavilion aims to “redefine tradition and transcend it” Image: © HONG Designworks

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