Perspective's friends in the architectural and design community pick their favourite holiday retreats and resorts for the festive season
With Christmas, the New Year and the Year of the Rat fast approaching, many Hong Kongers are trawling travel sites to find the perfect hotel or resort for some quality vacation time. Naturally, Perspective readers gravitate towards beautifully designed properties; with this in mind the city's creatives suggest some of their favourite design-savvy urban holiday retreats and resorts.
Educated in the UK and a former protégé of Andrée Putman, Antony Chan established Cream in his native Hong Kong two decades ago. The former chairman of the Hong Kong Interior Design Association goes for luxurious minimalism when he travels, and is a devoted advocate of pampering with a designer twist.
"A total getaway into sun, light and nature in a setting of impossible tranquillity and undeniably divine," says Chan, who considers this island property in the Maldives the best resort hotel he has experienced to date. "The ocean is on your doorstep, with gardens at your fingertips. Paradise found!" A series of boardwalks connects the various islands within Noonu Atoll, allowing guests to be fully immersed in the lush sea and sand of a tropical playground.
Chan says the property, an oasis in Japan's capital, is the "best city getaway hotel, and the best urban retreat there is. An ocean of calm inside the heart of Tokyo, this most cosmopolitan of the Asian cities requires no introduction". With its panoramic views from the top of Otemachi Tower, restrained elegance and nods to Japanese elements such as shoji screens and zen gardens, Aman Tokyo is a feast for all the senses – Aman junkie or otherwise.
Hong Kong architect Arthur Chan has been working in China for more than 20 years, specialising in commercial and institutional interior projects. When not jetting between offices in Beijing and Hong Kong, he heads to Japan to enjoy a quieter pace of life in the country's many highly personalised ryokans.
Situated in Shuzenji on the northern Izu peninsula, this is a modern yet traditional ryokan that offers plenty of surprises. "The hotel is set in the mountains, embracing a pond with waterfall," explains Chan. "We can fully indulge in nature as rooms face a pond with a Noh theatre – this was a traditional bui lding dismantled and reconstructed here. Hotel staff members take a boat to light candles set within the pond every night."
Set in Yufu, west of Fukuoka, 10 separate houses make up this hotel deep in the mountains. "We stayed in a large two-storey house with traditional Japanese elements such as wooden beams and a sunken hearth," recalls Chan. "Surprisingly, we discovered an art gallery run by the hotel. This was the most hospitable and sensitive hotel I have stayed in. After we gave them some feedback, the hotel replied with a letter addressing our comment with a gift of fish miso. It was really touching."
Gary Lai, who was previously VP of HOK in Hong Kong, established Spatial Concept in the city to concentrate on commercial interior projects with a few residences thrown into the mix. Though a city boy at heart, he likes to head to remote destinations where he can regroup, rejuvenate and relax on holidays.
This jungle resort in Bali made a strong impression on Lai when he stayed there nearly a decade ago. "I was impressed with the overall resort planning, the sculptural architecture, and how local materials were transformed into contemporary design," he notes. "The most iconic and memorable element is its wooden structure – like a series of pavilions. The largest one is a lounge area overhanging the mountain cliff."
Virginia Lung founded One Plus Partnership with husband and business partner Ajax Law in 2004. This year, One Plus branched out from its base of retail and cinema projects with the launch of fashion label Pulse On (an anagram of One Plus). The couple and their young daughter often seek family-friendly vacation destinations with eye candy for people of all ages.
THE CHEDI ANDERMATT
Set in the Swiss Alps, the hotel combines the romance of a chalet with the outstanding service the Singapore-based hotelier is celebrated for. "I like its ample use of solid wood for a cabin lodge feel, yet it offers a sophisticated, contemporary look," Lung notes. "Our room had a spacious living and dining room that we enjoyed. The big spa pool, swimming pool, and outdoor pool were a lot of fun. The choice of food was good, too: I remembered there were Japanese, Swiss and international restaurants."
Situated on Australia's Gold Coast, Lung and her family enjoyed the hotel's setting along with its one-stop-shop facilities that keep both parents and children entertained. "It was three years ago when I went there," she remembers. "We stayed in the two-bedroom villa. It was brand new. The facilities – particularly the swimming pool – are just perfect for families."
Founded in Hong Kong by Australian interior architect Ben McCarthy in 2010, Charlie & Rose is behind some of the city's most singular hospitality establishments. McCarthy likes to inject nostalgia inspired by his personal travels into the extensive details in his projects. Likewise, he appreciates the same attention to spaces where he stays while travelling.
Swire Hotels' first property opened just in time to welcome guests for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is currently undergoing a revamp. Union destination bar designed by AvroKO recently opened followed by all-day dining restaurant Frasca, by McCarthy (a sister to the one in The Middle House, Shanghai). "Frasca is part of a larger hotel refurbishment for the hotel's 10th anniversary," McCarthy states. "It is great to see they have kept the Kengo Kuma-designed swimming pool. I'm normally not a fan of indoor pools but this one has stood up to the test of time."
This is an eight-room boutique hotel set within a private museum that transports guests back to Thailand's publishing heyday in the mid-20th century. Taking up six blocks in a shophouse on Lan Luang Road, the property was once a family home and the birthplace of Bangkok magazine. Its rooftop garden offers relaxation with an outdoor Jacuzzi set in landscaped surrounds. "This hotel has everything I love about Bangkok in a hotel – nostalgia, fun and eclecticism," McCarthy enthuses.
Founded by Hong Kong architect Steve Leung, his eponymous group operates offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as from its home base of Hong Kong. Its services range from furniture design to high-end residences. Leung, a seasoned traveller with numerous charitable and educational endeavours, fully appreciates hospitality merging with outstanding design.
Leung oversaw the interior design of this resort property on Hainan Island. "I was inspired by the Chinese philosophy that celebrates a harmonious relationship between humans and nature," he says. "The architecture resembles a cruise ship sailing into the bay, and we created complementary spaces to suit. We also selected art that reflected Sanya's roots, giving them fresh life in contemporary surrounds."
The romantic setting in the misty karst landscape of Guilin was the perfect spot for a design hotel. It reflects Leung's personal design ethos of combining old with new, and Chinese with contemporary elements. "This was a working sugar mill transformed into a boutique hotel by Ju Bin, one of the or ig inal members of C-Foundation," reveals Leung. "The play of light and shadow here completes a stunning property and a memorable stay."
Architect and Hong Kong native Elva Tang met her French/ Danish husband Claude Bøjer Godefroy when they both worked for the local office of OMA. They eventually moved to Copenhagen in 2004 and became partners at Henning Larsen Architects. Five years ago, they expanded to Hong Kong, concentrating on community-oriented projects such as civic structures, museums and schools.
Nestled in Central Sri Lanka overlooking the Dambulla hills, Tang considers this hotel by tropical modernist architect Geoffrey Bawa an architectural masterpiece. "It is famous for capturing nature and integrating architecture with the jungle," she says. "The views are incredible and the infinity pool is stunning. There are also plenty of activities to do around the area such as UNESCO sightseeing and wildlife watching. I also love the naughty monkeys and the lush green gardens."
American architect J Lee Rofkind has made Hong Kong her home for the past quarter century, landing in the territory after designing hotels in Hawaii. Although her ideal holiday is a sustainably designed destination resort, she would never snub a stay in a well-appointed urban hotel with spa and city views.
Rofkind admits that she is biased when it comes to the Hong Kong-based hotelier's recently renovated Geneva property – as she recently completed the interiors for its toptiered room. "If I had all the money in the world, I would stay at the Mandarin Oriental Royal Penthouse Suite," she admits. "Overlooking the Rhone River, the old town of Geneva and the mountains, the suite is luxury epitomised."
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