Stylish ambitions

by PHOEBE LIU on May 13, 2011 in Architecture , Interiors
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Contemporary and cultural influences abound in an ambitious urban renewal project exemplified in a striking sales pavilion on the Xian An riverfront.

On a 250,000 sq-m site on the Xian An River in the historic town of Tunxi, Hong Kong-based architects MAP Architecture + Planning were set the challenge of bringing together the best of luxury and contemporary design, with a style that would respect the cultural heritage and traditions of the area.

Adding an extra element of consideration was that the Yellow Mountain/Huangshan area is one of China’s most spectacular tourism sites, and was named as a World Heritage Site in 1990. “When you are entrusted with a project like this, you feel a keen responsibility to respect the cultural heritage of the area,” explains Edward Billson, lead architect on the project and director of MAP.

The first phases of the renewal project – a retail complex, villas and apartments – have already been completed, opening the door to the next stage: a luxury Hilton-operated hotel and a residential development, comprising eight 20-storey towers and 1,000 apartments.

The Shanghai-based developers of the project, Yuan Yi Development Group, took an innovative and design-focused approach to the pre-sale of the 1,000 apartments, by commissioning MAP to develop a solution that would showcase the exact design and build quality of the finished apartments.

“Yuan Yi wanted to give buyers a much clearer impression of what the finished apartments would look like,” explains Billson. “The solution was to create a sales pavilion that not only showcases the layout, features and build quality of the units, but also highlights the developer’s commitment to design excellence.”

The result is a spectacular piece of modern architecture that has attracted potential buyers and tourists, and raised the profile of the urban renewal project across the region. The Yellow Mountain Pavilion stands as a landmark structure on a triangular Xian An riverfront site. A tower structure at its apex houses a three-stop observation elevator, offering sweeping views across the Xian An River to the Yellow Mountains and beyond. “A key selling feature of the units is the impressive view over this area of exceptional natural beauty,” says Billson.

The ceiling is layered, with a skylight running the full length of the main atrium, casting natural light onto the cool grey, polished marble floors. By contrast, the first floor entrance to the display apartments creates a warm and homely environment, with natural timber veneer cladding to the first floor hallway.

On the ground floor, the Pavilion houses six sales areas designed as ‘living rooms’ showcasing residential interior design features. The idea was to create a relaxed, homely atmosphere and are located behind the dramatic four-metre cantilevered reception desk.

Drawing on the strong cultural heritage of the region, the architects developed an innovative process to create the illuminated Chinese lantern effect. “We used a complex laser-cut technique on aluminium cladding panels, and then back-lit it with LEDs to create a glowing lantern effect,” explains Billson.

Originally from Melbourne, but based in Hong Kong for more than 17 years, Billson has worked on projects across Southeast Asia, including luxury residential and hotel developments in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam and Thailand. Regional buyers, he says, are increasingly savvy and demand a much greater understanding of the properties in which they invest. “The Pavilion was designed solely with the aim of giving a clear sense of the quality of product on offer from the developers,” he says.

And, in keeping with the request from the Yuan Yi to minimise waste, the Pavilion has been designed with sustainability in mind. “The pavilion was constructed in three months using a steel frame design. Such has been the impact of the building that it will be adapted and recycled into a clubhouse for the final residential development. This is a very tangible form of sustainability,” says Billson.