As a treat I spent my last Beijing weekend at The Opposite House.
With its blocky exterior and colorful façade it sits comfortably within the new development of Sanlitan Village. At Sanlitan Lu lies a symbiotic dichotomy; a divide and link between this new retail hub (with its bars, clubs and luxury brand delights) and the Embassy compounds with barbed wire, breeze block fortifications, uniformed guards and 60’s architecture. The Opposite House has been embraced by young and old with much of the patronage coming from across the divide. It is the place to be any night of the week. Its bars and restaurants are exceptional in feel and fair.
The Opposite House was one of Japanese Architect, Kengo Kuma’s maiden projects. It is worth noting that the office also completed the master plan for Sanlitan Village. From outside-in The Opposite House is not screaming ‘look at me’. It is reposed. The pleasure and joy are in essential qualities and design principles that form a coherent ‘parti’; the intersection of volumes, the natural materials expressed; visible circulation (the ‘hotel corridor’ turned inside-out with room access lining a central courtyard-like volume); the feeling of outside-in; the filtering of light, view and privacy through a considered syntax of surfaces, screens, constructions and patterns.
It felt surprisingly very Chinese but through the frame of discrete Japanese hands and sensibilities. The name of the hotel itself and spatial quality reference the traditional courtyard house where guests are received. The finer details, such as the external facade pattern or the medicine cabinet drawers within the reception reference traditional Chinese motifs, lattice screens and furniture.
Having stayed in my fair share of ‘design hotels’ throughout the trip it was a relief to be here. The spaces were uncluttered and considered; there weren’t an array of designer chairs, lights or accessories littering the reception or the guest rooms. This ‘space’ meant that often one’s mind was free to wander and reflect on the experiences from the day while also be tuned to the moment unfolding in the present. This calm was something that I really enjoyed.