With an 800-year-old ikeniwa (pond garden) at its heart, the Four Seasons Kyoto features 110 standard rooms, 12 suites, one presidential suite and 57 condo unites. Created to be a haven of solitude, the design narrative was carefully planned carefully, inviting guests to engage with the surrounding nature. A sense of modernism resonates throughout the hotel, yet traditional Japanese conceptions of architecture have also been considered.
Upon arrival, guests are greeted into the hotel by a bamboo forest that leads to a Japanese garden sanctuary. Bringing the outdoors to the interior, the vast lobby space adapts with every season to evoke a constant, yet ever-changing atmosphere. The use of locally sourced traditional shoji paper screens create interesting soft shadows as light casts through them, and the designers used natural Aji stepping stones to pave the ground, reminiscent of a Zen garden.
The rooms at the hotel reflect the characteristics of a traditional Japanese house. The quiet and elegantly simple lines of wooden slats greet guests upon entering the space, while Fusuma screens decorated with artwork by local echo artists further celebrate the culture. Traditional tatami was implemented in a modern way to preserve and respect Kyoto's tradition by adding a Japanese pattern motif, and a purple hue is used throughout the design, providing a stately and royal context for the country.
Designed to be the gateway to celebration, the staircase to the wedding chapel offers a modern architectural form – the fusion of contemporary design with traditional skills. The form of the staircase contrasted by the softness of the traditional washi paper partitions create a characteristic Japanese space that is soft and luminous. Locally sourced washi paper specially designed by local artisan Eriko Horiki, who uses traditional methods in creating traditional Japanese paper, gives an ambient atmosphere through the textures of shadows created by light filtering though. Complemented by the gentle sounds of the trickling water feature, the staircase draws guests to move about the space.
"Five years ago, we began working on the design for the Four Seasons Kyoto and immediately recognized the tremendous respect and honor the region and Ikeniwa Pond commanded," said Agnes Ng, partner and lead designer on the project for Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA). "Our concept paid respect to both aspects of the property with our understated, graceful design, which had minimalist undertones featuring intricate details. The hotel is meant to be a haven for contemplation – we designed every facet of it to open up to views of Ikeniwa, allowing the design to serve as a window to the pond, never detracting from it."