Thomas Balsley Associates was invited to design one of six hotel villa sites near the ancient city of Xi’an. Collaborating with Joel Sanders Architect, the design draws inspiration from the lifestyle and design principles of traditional Chinese gardens. Like these ancient private retreats, this hotel site is also organized around a series of landscaped courtyards, where occupants can escape for relaxation, rejuvenation and contemplation. Homage is paid to the essence of traditional Chinese garden design that conceives of each complex as a unique constructed composition that blend architecture and landscape, organic and inorganic materials, art and nature. A layered series of architectural and landscape “shelves” respond to the Loess plain theme outlined in the master plan. The concept reinterprets traditional garden elements: the faceted hotel villas emerging out of the ground plane recall ancient scholar rocks featured prominently in traditional courtyards, garden ponds become water remediation tanks used for spa pools and to water vegetation, and traditional ornate scrim panels have a modern interpretation through the use of perforated metal.
Additionally, the design also takes cues from the surrounding agricultural context, employing environmentally responsible principles to create an eco-spa resort. An expansive green roof with sweeping drifts of native plants will regulate building temperatures in a sustainable way while also minimizing run-off. This ecological green roof also allows for wildlife habitat to be viewed by hotel guests. The large pool areas in the sunken landscape are imagined to be ‘natural’ pools - using vegetation around the base of the villa towers to environmentally cleanse and filter the water without the use of chemicals, and create a social filter in which private space is delicately screened from semi-public space.