An authentic luxury retreat in rural China, Wuyuan Skywells captures the essence of a bygone era in the millennium-old Yan village. The Skywells project focused on the preservation rather than the modernization of a 300-year-old Huizhou-style property deep in East China’s Jiangxi Province, something that has not gone unnoticed as the project continues its winning streak in this year’s design awards circuit.
▼建筑外观，exterior view ©Marc Goodwin
The hotel is named after the English translation of “Tian Jing”—a regional architectural feature comprising of narrow courtyards that let daylight into surrounding rooms. A multiracial couple earlier based in Shanghai, the clients used their life savings to purchase the property and turn it around while acting as custodians rather than gentrifying hoteliers. One of the key requirements was to preserve not only the recoverable artefacts but to also recreate the grandeur and elegance that was associated with the mansion, which, due to its remote location, was fortunate enough to survive a tumultuous 20th-century China. Having once served as an inn for merchants traversing through the region, the building had suffered much neglect for most of the 20th century and was also a haven for Chinese soldiers fighting the Japanese invasion of the mainland.
▼入口区域，entry way ©夏至
▼天井：房子和外墙之前自然围合的一片狭窄的露天空地，“Tian Jing”—a regional architectural feature comprising of narrow courtyards that let daylight into surrounding rooms ©夏至
Though the building features sky wells, the rooms and suites themselves do not feature generous windows. To avoid polluting the external appearance and original architecture, the team introduced latticed panels on walls facing the skywells, and high-quality artificial lighting. Brick and clay walls were restored and rebuilt according to local tradition and keep the structure cool during hot summers. In terms of energy use, the hotel has a better level of thermal insulation and waste water management than the local standard.
▼精致的雕花窗楹弥补了光线不足的缺陷，latticed panels on walls facing the sky wells provide more natural light to the internal space ©夏至
▼窗户与原本的建筑特色完美融合，the window elements are integrated well with the original interior ©Marc Goodwin
Original and traditional elements in public areas were retained while the more private spaces for guests were contemporized with playful fittings and modern-day amenities, with the interior design of the 14 suites dominated by a mélange of warm and cool neutrals interspersed with occasional bright accent colors.
▼客房，guest room ©夏至
The team executed in a manner that respected and honored the local architectural history and features and restore in a manner where current and future generations could understand and appreciate traditional design. A unique aspect of the property was the internal timber frame, ornately carved in public areas. Since large parts of the frame had been destroyed due to severe neglect, the team searched for and engaged the services of Yuzong, a talented local artisan with the requisite skill and experience. In addition to basic restoration, he also rendered replacements for irrecoverable decorative carvings as per traditional and his own adapted designs. His replacement carvings for the main beam in the entrance area are particularly significant as they employ motifs inspired by the clients’ background and story. In this way, the cultural aspects of the property were not only given a facelift but were also upgraded to reflect a new chapter in the building’s legacy.
▼公共空间，public space ©Marc Goodwin
▼修旧如旧，浑然天成，the building was restored in a manner where current and future generations could understand and appreciate traditional design ©Marc Goodwin
▼庭院夜景，courtyard night view ©夏至
▼首层平面图，plan level 1
▼二层平面图，plan level 2
Wuyuan Skywells Hotel
Client: Wuyuan Skywells:
Edward Gawne, Selina Liao
Location: Wuyuan, Jiang Xi Province, China
Architects: Andreas Thomczyk, Mika Woll, Amy Mathieson
Designers: Danxin Sun, Kevin Wang
Enginneers: Chris Chen
Project End Date: May 5th, 2017
Size: 1,385 sqm
Photographer: Marc Goodwin, Xia Zhi