The renovation and redesign of the Sangsi'an Cottage hotel on the western banks of the Taihu Lake in Changxing, Zhejian, China was approached by architects Fan Beilei and Kong Rui of genarchitects with an eye for sustainability and a desire to not overtake the existing surroundings but to seamlessly join them. Hence, the combined 1,092 square meters of the six freestanding buildings that make up this country hotel - completed in February of 2016 - are nestled among the peaceful Shangsi'an Village, sharing the stone pathways, yards, evergreen trees and, of course, Si'antang Creek, that runs through its center with its local citizens.
The hotel's main building, a traditional, white-walled exhibition hall with a sloping, dark tiled roof includes a teahouse and library that invites guests and locals to mingle under its open pavilion beside the historic, stone bridge. As one of the more drastic redesign elements to the exterior, the designers removed the existing, "urban-flavored" granite stairs leading towards the bridge and replaced them with a grassy slope and smaller stone stairs which don't interfere with the existing natural terrain.
Meanwhile, the construction of the timber house - which very impressively dates back to China's late Qing Dynasty - was strengthened, yet the designers were careful to not alter the building in any significant manner. As such, the interior dark wood ceiling is still held up by its original strong wood beams and its main entrance boasts a wide plank, double door that appears to be straight out of that historic time period. As with the rest of the hotel, the décor is kept simple, with wood tables surrounded by wood chairs and a bar in one corner. The heavy and weathered floor masonry is another period touch which adds an element that is difficult to replicate.
The hotel's guestrooms are distributed among three, two-storey buildings overlooking a tile paved courtyard - to note, this courtyard isn't exclusive to the hotel and locals can pass through it as they go about the village's winding, stone pathways. The guestroom buildings are perhaps those that have received the most redesign, since the rooms' wide, window walls aren't the village-house norm. Nevertheless, it was a bright move to make by the design team - pun intended - as the surrounding forest as well as the outside light streaming in both succeed in casting a warming glow throughout the minimally furnished rooms.
Not much is needed to make a guest feel at home here; a comfortable bed, a dresser, and an armchair or two, and a flat screen TV, combined with the sometimes timber-clad and sometimes white-washed walls are more than ample "creature comforts." Providing a much desired calm, Zen-like atmosphere, the countryside moves at its own pace at Sangi'san Cottage and its guests can't help but be encouraged to participate in its languid motions.