The “Art Hotel” is a very interesting concept which is nothing new, and has been around in various forms and sizes since the 1980s in Europe. Usually art hotels are stand alone business establishments owned by a single owner who loves design and decorates each room with their own collection of art works (both legitimate art and kitsch depending on where you go), and each room is usually decorated differently from the others. Basically it’s a way to get a unique experience while travelling, without having to resort to mundane rooms that look like every other city in the world. Where’s the fun in that?
One of the first travel concierge services in the world, Berlin’s Design Hotels, was actually founded in the early 90’s to help an every growing consumer base (like me and my readers) easily discover the quirky artsy and design-oriented destination hotels, as a viable option to the typical; which are hostels, boring business or family hotels, or the overly extravagant and generic offerings clad in that Vegas-style pizzazz.
Every nook and cranny of Hotel Eclat’s spaces houses an art exhibition.
Twenty years later Design Hotels is still going strong, and with them there a few more, like Smith Hotels, Relais and Chateaux, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World Group, for example of which Beijing’s Hotel Eclat is a member.
The art hotel of today is way different and more competitive than its roots those many years ago. Sure there are still some art hotels with that unique intimate scale that is more familiar to us like Singapore’s New Majestic and Wanderlust, but if we’re talking about China, so the scale is all about big and grand.
Amazing atrium spaces with art on display at every angle.
Hotel Eclat IS an art hotel, but there are also other aspects which make this project very interesting besides it’s gigantic size and scale. Hotel Eclat is the first platinum certified LEED building in China (ie. Green), and it also home to China’s largest contemporary Chinese art collection, as well as housing the largest collection of Salvadore Dali outside Europe.
Dali chairs, you can possibly sit on.
This month, Hotel Eclat introduces eight new Deluxe Pool Suites on the hotel’s roof plus 80sqm. indoor terraces extending out from beyond each suite’s living spaces.
Gasp, a roof pool in Beijing you may ask? Not to worry, every terrace and suite is encased in “ETFE” a breathable green material which allows for natural daylight, yet filters out Beijing’s air and rain. This is the same material that was used to skin Beijing’s Olympic Water Cube and Bird’s Nest buildings.
ETFE material encasing the roof of the building allows an outdoor pool experience in Beijing without pollution or rain.
Like most Art Hotels, Hotel Eclat’s Deluxe Pool Suites have different themes; including ‘Alice’s Mad Hatter’, ‘The Real BAPE’ (as in the fashion brand), ‘Scandinavian Design’, ‘The Eternal Bachelor’, ‘Great love for Classic Sport’, and ‘The Old Boy’s Club’. Mostly male oriented I see….
'The Eternal Bachelor' room is designed with Timothy Oulton's Union Jack inspired furniture.
'Alice's Mad Hatter' hosts playful decor elements and a series of cartoons culptures by Gao Xiaowu.
'Scandinavian Design' offers a subtle bespoke experience, with stylish pieces of natural woods curated by Chinese Designer, Chen Darui.
All suites have a very interesting Dining area. If I stayed here, I would definitely order in! Apparently all meals are prepared by a private Chef and served by a personal butler.
The bedrooms look more than comfortable. This is ‘The Real BAPE’ Suite. (At least I prefer this to a room outfitted with LV or CHANEL stuff, which is probably what it would have been 5 years ago.)
Staying at Hotel Eclat’s Deluxe Pool Suite includes 24-hour access to the Eclat Lounge, which features breakfast and snacks all day.
I really have no idea why you’d want to leave the hotel at anytime you’re staying here, but if you do… well there’s a Gucci Bicycle ready for you downstairs.
I was supposed to blog about this last year during my trip to Beijing with
CNNGo CNN Travel, but with everything happening at the end of the year, and with the sheer density of all the other posts I had to do for CNN, this post about Beijing’s most fantastic fashion exhibition space, WUHAO, just kept being pushed back.
Well, Spring 2013 is here, and I was reminded by an email from WUHAO and its founder, Isabelle Pascal-Pons, that they are now open and ready for business in the year of the Water Snake.
Actually it was Brew&Post pals, Jason and Denise, who introduced me to the studio. Their friend, Vincent, came along to check it out with us as well. If you already read my Beijing post on the Nanluoguxiang Hutong, you can get a sense that Beijing has full of interesting surprises unique to the city in terms of shopping and cultural destination offerings. Amazing bars, cafes, boutiques, and gift shops line this historic commercial corridor, and are preserved within low single story courtyard structures.
It’s within this context that WUHAO is home. No signage. No visible marking. If you go to WUHAO, you are here because you know what they offer and you know exactly what lies behind the red door.
It’s not a proper vacation to Beijing until you’ve experienced old and new world shopping unique only to this city. I’m talking about making time to visit the boutiques and cafes of Nanluoguxiang Hutong and the edgy and exciting retail experience found at Sanlitun Village.
Nanluoguxiang was built during the Yuan Dynasty in the 1700’s, and today is still home to many of Beijing’s residents. This hutong is also a popular venue for those who are looking for the quirky gift or unique fashion find that are design-oriented pieces original to the artists and craftsmen based in the city. Check out these cheeky porcelain figures.
… Or these funny postcards. Most of them are in “Engrish” (Chinese-English), but you get the general gist of the message.
Shops sell everything from authentic shoes worn by Beijing people for hundreds of years…
…To propaganda shirts which remix historic Chinese images to create new messages and designs that give their product that “contemporary art” edge.
There were so many lanes which branched out of the main street. It would take a whole day to visit all of them.
With so much to see, it’s easy to get a bit tired. That’s why it’s always good to take a rest and to have a sip of some hot Chinese Tea or coffee at one of the many establishments in the Hutong made for visitors and tourists. These cafes have plenty of character and allows one to recharge before continuing their shopping journey.
For lunch we had some “Dan Dan Min (Hot and Spicy Noodles)” at another local eatery, Red Ding Coffee.
They had a beautiful courtyard.
But for street food… you can opt for steamy yams.
Or Caramelized Fruits on a stick. This was divine.
This dessert is called Tanghulu and it’s a Beijing original. I had figs.
Other fashion finds for me include these original (read “real) Feiyue shoes for about 130RMB (18-20USD).
And this fashionable gentleman.
Across town it’s all about modern indoor-outdoor shopping experiences with Sanlitun Village.
Criss crossing glass planes, diagonal pathways, and a LED lights define this new shopping environment.
Every corner is a different discovery.
From Home furnishings…
To current fashion trends… it’s all here.
Vying for your attention.
New or old…
… There’s something in Beijing for every stylish individual, like this gent I spotted at Sanlitun Village.
Or this gent at Nanluoxguxiang who was channeling a young Woody Allen.
Also spotted… Fashion Blogger, Vanessa Hong at Sanlitun Village. Love the quilted jacket and ripped jean denim.
We hung out with Vincent from VICE Magazine China.
I’ll miss all this. Thank you Hilton Hotels & Resorts for such a wonderful and memorable trip!
This post was originally published on November 24, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.
One of the main reasons why I was drawn to practice architecture in China was the bountiful opportunities within the region to build, and as a designer, to play a part in helping shape China’s newly built environments.
It’s cool that people can go to Beijing, and actually self-prescribe their own Architectural tours of the city. Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there’s just been so many new architectural projects to see, with some structures designed by the world’s top “Starchitects”. At my request, we were lucky enough to check out the National Stadium, or The Bird’s Nest, as most residents lovingly call it. This “nest”, conceived by artists, Ai Weiwei, was a token symbol of China’s rise not only as a global power, but as a possible influencer of culture.
With the help of Swiss architects, Herzog de Meuron (HdM), Ai Weiwei’s form, formulated by an intricate lattice work of steel, was finally constructed and made it just in the nick of time by the Olympic’s inaugural celebration.
Stairs are incorporated in the building facade form.
Inside it’s equally impressive in a different scale.
It’s interesting to see for myself how all the puzzles fit, which is what I did as I walked around the stadium.
And then the sports field is revealed…
Denise just takes it all in.
So very impressive.
The internal skin constructed with water resistent tensile membrane called ETFE. It’s very strong and durable.
There’s also real time computer monitoring of the Bird’s Nest’s structural health. Visitors can view structural health assessments via TV screens located around the public circulation. There are graphs for temperature, structural straining, wind speed and direction through the stadium, and vibrational analysis for example.
The beauty is in the form as much as it is in the science.
Even the glass balustrades around the Stadium had the facade pattern printed on it. The building’s story is followed through until the very detail level which is impressive.
My friends, Denise and Jason, had fun getting their photos taken in “uniform” at the gift shop.
The Bird’s Nest is but one of so many new and daring structures that have the opportunity and the flexibility to pop up in Beijing. Driving around the city, there are just so much more to see, and half of them designed by not so famous architects so they never get as much publicity as they could.
This one below is designed by Zaha Hadid, and it’s called Galaxy Soho.
Of course most streets are still lined with trees and are very low-rise in nature.
And then there are sublime moments when your car drives past one of these structures. It’s Ancient history… within reach.
Some of my other favorite projects in Beijing include OMA’s CCTV, Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid, and Paul Andreau’s National Opera.
And the construction just never ends as Beijing STILL “goes for the Gold”.
ARCHITECTURE National Stadium - Bird’s Nest
This post was originally published on November 21, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.
On our first outing the day after arriving, we paid homage to Beijing as China’s center of political power by paying a visit to Tiananmen Square located right in the middle of the city. But first we needed to fill up on a power breakfast at VASCO’s at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing, our hotel.
We asked for coffee… and we got a whole pot of coffee press coffee. Impressive.
While I’ve been to Tiananmen Square in the past, it was the first time for my friend, Denise. It was really exciting as we were approaching the Square, a short 5-10 minute ride from our hotel.
I keep forgetting how the scale of the streets, buildings, and open spaces that make up the Square and the walls that surround the Forbidden City adjacent are planned and designed in such a way to amp up “Wow” factor for any tourist, visitors, and all state guests. The wide lanes and the open spaces also make room for processions and pageantry of all sorts.
Tiananmen actually refers to the initial portal of the Forbidden City, also called The Gate of Heavenly Peace. This gate was first built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, and appears in many Chinese printed iconography, including the official National Emblem of China.
Tiananmen Square is the city square across the road from the Tiananmen and is the site of where most Political pageantries, shows, as well as public gatherings have been held over the years. And compared to when I first visited, the Square today is very safe, clean, and full of Chinese nationals from all over the country paying a visit.
Below is an ultra huge LED screen devoted to showing tourism-style travel shows of each region in China to visit. This is a recent addition which is new to me.
The reason why it’s safe to visit now, is because like any National Monument, these days the square is fenced off from all sides, and you have to cross a security checkpoint, complete with body and bag scanners to make sure you’re not carrying a weapon. The checkpoint will generally filter out any street hawkers or the type of people that tend to harass tourists in these kind of places.
Denise was just excited to have a neat backdrop to take “street style” photos for her fashion blog.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the whole day to explore… but there’s just so much to see here at the seat of China’s political power.
Everything is so tidy and clean.
On the way out we picked up a few propaganda goodies for fun.
There’s more in Beijing to see. Time to go!
It rained. Alot.
It made everything look a bit moodier which I love.
This post was originally published on November 20, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.
All six of my Beijing Blog posts for CNN.com / CNN Travel are now up! Read them, take the quiz, and maybe you and a friend will get a chance to win a trip and stay in Beijing with Hilton Hotels & Resorts!
In the first post I write about my stay at Hilton Beijing Wangfujing.
In the second post I write about awkwardly making a Peking Duck.
In the third post we try street food in Wangfujing Markets and Commercial Shopping Street next to the hotel.
In the fourth post, we visit Tiananmen Square.
And the sixth post, the fun one titled “Streets of Style”, I take you shopping through Old…
and the New…
With the Hutong and the Village at Sanlitun. I even took some really cool street style photos!
Check out the video!
Good luck! Hope you can go to Beijing too!
Well here we are. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go visit my favorite city in China, Beijing, with Brew&Post pals, Denise and Jason via Hilton Hotels and CNNGo (now called CNN Travel). Basically I turned in a video to Youtube, auditioning for a spot to go on a trip. I was picked from a handful of applicants and luckily I got to go to Beijing on Hilton as an assignment which was great. I’ve been to Beijing before the Olympics and haven’t really been back since. I was impressed by the city then, but I’m more impressed with it now.
In a nutshell, I think the city is very cool, full of culture and creativity, good architecture, nice people, and great food. It’s not aFinance oriented environment like Hong Kong is, which is a nice refreshing change from this corporate city. Anyway my first of six blog posts for CNNGo x Hilton are up. Check it out, Retweet it, like it, and if you follow my posts, you too will get a chance to win a trip to stay at Hilton Beijing Wangfujing like I did. Don’t wait, read it now!
READ THE CNNGo x Hilton Hotels Experience Asia Blog HERE.