Its modernity is as total as its context is ancestral. The Puxuan Hotel and Spa, near the Forbidden City in Beijing, incorporates two opposing aesthetic forces that complete each other in harmony, without conflict.
A modern jewel juxtaposed with a symbol of history and tradition. It seems impossible. But instead, there is a harmonious balance between the terse architecture of the Puxuan Hotel and Spa, designed by OleScheeren, and the monumental Forbidden City in Beijing. A dialogue inevitably taken up by the narrative of the new building, seen through contemporary eyes.
The two volumes of the new structure, different in terms of material and form, meet halfway between top and bottom. The pixelated volumes of the lower part make subtle reference to the adjacent historical urban fabric, echoing the grain, color and intricate scale of the city’s hutongs, and welcoming the Guardian Art Center (China’s oldest auction house) as well as part of the functions of the hotel. A clean break from the upper glass portion, which instead reflects the most current spirit of the capital, and contains the main hotel complex, the guestrooms and the spa.
The connection with Chinese architecture returns in the layered spatial composition that creates a series of internal nested courtyards, or in the reference to the ancient Mendun – a sculpture at the threshold that indicated the social position of the owner – this time combined with aged bronze panels rather than stone
The interior design by MQ Studio, a multiethnic work group based in Shanghai, follows suit, formulating the inhabited space with elegance and a sense of history. In the courtyard lobby, simply furnished with design pieces by Shang Xia, the floor is formed by fired clay tiles polished by hand and arriving from Suzhou, not unlike the ones seen in the nearby Imperial Palace; the gray fabric panels of the elevators reflect the patterns of the hutongs, while the ceiling is enhanced by a virtual projection of light filtered through the trees of Beijing.
In the Fuchun Ju restaurant the tops of the seats represent the cloud models of traditional Chinese art, and the ceiling is composed of interlocking coffered volumes of ‘Beijing glass’ in an amber hue, made by hand. Their counterparts are the found objects on view in the second restaurant, Rive Gauche, and the outdoor furnishings by Kettal in the public areas, featuring Boma by RodolfoDordoni, Basket by Nanna &Jorgen Ditzel and Village by JasperMorrison.
The layout of the 116 rooms, organized on four levels, recreates the interaction of typical residences with a volume that defines both circulation and privacy. Finally, the two-story spa, though unisex, leans towards masculine tastes, with references to luxury yachts and automobiles in carbon fiber, briar, aluminium and suede in the treatment rooms.