China’s ongoing economic boom opens up a wealth of new opportunities for enterprising business ventures. Among others, adventurous architects flock to the country to realize their ambitious visions
Nowadays, modern metropolitan hotels are no longer just a cosy home away from home, but more often than not carefully designed boutique hotels built and fitted to convey the impression of an especially exclusive haven - something more elegant and striking than our own humble homes. For seasoned travellers, this can turn a welcome respite for weary heads into an inspiring interior design excursion. At the same time, a strong style statement will most likely not be to everyone’s taste. With this in mind, most self-confessed design hotels fall back on a relatively safe standard concept that suggests style without subscribing to a particular taste. More and more often, unsuspecting guests might find themselves in an environment reminiscent of McDonald’s latest cafe ventures, filled with a few scattered leather cubes and plenty of tiny colourful lampshades.
Against this background, Beijing’s Opposite House, situated in the city’s embassy district, stands out as a shining and striking exception. Designed by Japanese starchitect Kengo Kuma, this uncompromising and literally illuminating structure cuts no corners in terms of style and substance. Almost alien in its exterior appearance, the hotel looks like a giant pixel, dropped down to earth from the bowels of a gigantic video game. Once inside, visitors might wonder where all the actual rooms are hiding. At first glance, all you see is one giant space: The building’s atrium easily reaches cathedral dimensions and the open balustrades betray no seams or signs of entry. On closer inspection, they hide a range of doors leading to the hotel’s accommodation. Once inside, travellers are enveloped in a soothing blend of Chinese and Japanese tradition, updated to meet modern needs and the latest design standards. Clear lines and natural materials dominate the room - even the bathtub conforms to the look with a large rectangle carved from dark wood.
Nevertheless, and despite Kuma’s perfectionist streak, the Opposite House comes with every design hotel’s Achilles heel: After trying to coax lights and faucets into life with a range of hand claps, whistles and even grovelling, it is time to call the concierge for a crash course in how to use the room’s amenities.