Occupying a run-of-the-mill building in the centre of Guangzhou, China, Hotel Far & Near Nanhao St. stands out in its stark minimalism and industrial elegance courtesy of Tokyo and Shanghai-based kooo architects who had to contend with a challenging brief that demanded privacy in a densely populated area where you can almost reach out and touch your neighbour’s laundry drying on the opposite balcony. The architect’s ingenious solution, stripping down the existing building to its concrete structure and wrapping it in frosted glass, not only ensures complete privacy but also allows abundant natural light to flood the interiors, while at night, the tall, lantern-like seven-storey guesthouse literally becomes a glowing beacon.
On the ground floor, the open-plan lobby has been conceived as a continuation of the street, its paved layout stretching across the entire depth. Fronted by a glass façade and backed by two-storey high clerestory windows lined with a honeycomb steel lattice, the light-filled lobby is an intermediary space between the bustle of the city and the intimacy of the guestrooms upstairs. The exposed concrete structure and the introduction of galvanized steel decking further enhance the sense of urban grittiness while the shifting patterns of light and shadows filtering through the filigree-like steel window panels at the back imbue the lobby with a lyrical ambience.
The guestrooms are centred on a double-height living room enveloped in floor-to-ceiling frosted glass bands that seamlessly form a translucent cocoon providing abundant natural light. Made up of industrial-style glass channels, the frosted facades ensure privacy while also acting as insulation against Guangzhou's subtropical climate. At night, tall white curtains can be drawn across the glazed walls to shut out the city lights.
On the back of the living room, a mezzanine level contains the bedroom area, underneath which the architects have tucked the bathroom. Clad in metal, the bathrooms pick up the industrial sensibility of the exposed concrete structure and frosted glass channels, while the extensive use of blond wood panelling lining the internal surfaces imbues the rooms with warmth. A minimalist interior design subtly ties everything together in austere sophistication.
On the rooftop, a decked terrace allows guests to enjoy panoramic views of the city, framed by a minimalist trellis made up of thin metal poles upon which climbing plants can grow. Abundant precipitation in Guangzhou means that the terrace will be enveloped in lush vegetation in no time, a welcoming respite in a city where concrete high-rises dominate the skyline.