Yangshuo Alila Resort

A piece about the repurposed sugar refinery in Yangshuo, commissioned by an in-flight magazine. For the story I also interviewed Li XiaoDong 李晓东, Professor of Architecture at Tsinghua University, Dong Gong 董功, principal and founder of Vector Architects and main architect behind the Alila Hotel at Yangshuo and interior designer Ju Bin 琚宾. 

I can’t reproduce the full text here, but below are some of the images I took during the trip. It is an incredible setting and a rare example of a sensitive and thoughtful preservation project. 

The last twenty years have been a boom time for architecture. In this short period, buildings that would previously been labelled “conceptual” or even “fantasy” have leapt from screen to realisation with a rapidity that doesn’t always allow for careful reflection. Nowhere does this become more apparent than when travelling through China. Every city, it seems, has been rushing to open their signature opera house, museum or airport to accompany the futuristic CBD and downtown shopping malls. While this spree has often been at the expense of existing structures, communities or spaces, sweeping away the old has long been a theme of progress in China. Fortunately there have emerged some dissenting voices — not about the newness of such buildings but about the way they impact upon their human inhabitants and users. Contemporary architecture, they feel, should not simply wallow in newness and vastness, but should aspire to appeal on a more human level, avoid alienating their inhabitants and users. Maybe even improve your well-being.”

Professor Li XiaoDong 李晓东