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Nature is nourished in this timber hotel in China by ZJJZ

ZJJZ, a Shanghai-based architectural practice designs ‘WoodHouse Hotel’ – a series of 10 charred timber cabins atop a hill in rural China.

by Zohra Khan May 24, 2019

Tuanjie, a remote rural area in China’s Guizhou province made history in 1994 when Huang Dafa, a local village chief finished construction of a herculean project, The Dafa Canal. Realised in 36 years, the water channel spanning 10 kms was established as a glorious landmark in the village, which had long been crumbling due to the lack of water resources.

While the region found water 25 years ago, it continued to grapple with another issue. With respect to rural poverty development, until 2016, one third of Tuanjie’s population was living below the national poverty line. A solution emerged in the form of a government policy that proposed the development of a series of projects in the area. The proposal was aimed at leveraging the village’s natural assets, majestic mountains and pollution free farmlands, through the introduction of agricultural tourism.

ZJJZ was commissioned to design the first project of this initiative, called The Woodhouse Hotel. Positioned in a serenely bucolic setting, the project comprises of 10 single storey wooden cabins dotted on the side of a steep hill.

A view of the hotel cabins from across the pedestrian path Image Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu

A pedestrian path ascends from the village below and leads to the cabins above. Meandering through the site and submerged within its abundant growth of grass and wood, this path is the single means to reach the hotel rooms. “Our design goal was set to capture the beauty of nature with tranquil forms that harmonise with the surrounding environment,” says the design team.

The structures are laid across the topography without disturbing its existing terrain of dense forests and scattered rock formations. Extensive surveys were conducted to determine the position of the cabins and their orientation in the context – ensuring that each one gets the most stunning views of the enfolding landscape. A combined structural system was adopted for all the houses. The superstructure consists of cabins cladded in weather resistant carbonized wood, supported by an elevated steel platform below.

As one enters a cabin, the darkened charred charcoal envelope outside transitions into a warm tan on the inside. The interiors appear private and deeply introverted owing to their reduced internal volumes and averting an overwhelming sense of occupancy, as one inhabits it. Large ceiling heighted windows, skylights and narrow elongated slits are strategically cut into the walls to bring the outside verdant views in.

Guest room interiors Image Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu

While the cabins allow for an intimate sojourn within the mountains, the village at the bottom of the hill felicitates programs for active recreation. Various restaurants and hotels dot the locale and a tourist center serves as a centerpiece of the local public life. It hosts an array of activities of public communion which includes a weekly farmers’ market and regular folk-art performances.

“A healthy self-supporting mechanism is gradually forming on the foundation of the local economy that primarily relies on agriculture and tourism,” remarks the design team. “During our time there, we have seen local villagers and people returning from the city to join the construction team and later becoming users and operators of the facilities they built.”

To help ameliorate rural poverty, the project involves local community participation Image Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu

ZJJZ has been responsible for designing a series of projects for the development of Tuanjie’s rural fabric. Inspired by a traditional site-sensitive language, the works celebrate the nature nourished context and the simple life of the local dwellers.

Project Details

Name of the project: Woodhouse Hotel
Location: Guizhou, China
Client: Guizhou Dafa Tourism Development Co. Ltd.
Year of completion: 2018
Area: 500 sqm, 40-50 sqm/structure
Architect: ZJJZ
Design team: Yuying Kate Tsai, Sean Shen, Xuanru Chen, Zhenyu Cao
Local structural and MEP engineer: Guiyang Architectural Design & Surveying Prospecting Co., Ltd.
Brands / Products: Philips Lighting, DAaZ Design Furniture

  • The charred timber façade of the cabins merge with the site’s natural topography Image Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • The interiors capture picturesque views of the surrounding landscape Image Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • Layout plan, Type 1 Image Credit: Courtesy of ZJJZ
  • Layout plan, Type 2 Image Credit: Courtesy of ZJJZ
  • Layout Plan, Type 3 Image Credit: Courtesy of ZJJZ
  • Elevations, Type 1 + 2 + 3 Image Credit: Courtesy of ZJJZ

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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