Neri&Hu turned a residential building in Nantou City, Shenzhen into an 11-room hotel that strongly connects with its urban surroundings.

Key features

Likening the intervention to cutting the building open, the design studio sought to reveal its original character and highlight its rich layers of history. Exposed concrete walls, beams and ceilings are among the original features juxtaposed with contemporary fixtures and finishes and tactile materials and biophilic elements. The building’s façade was maintained but is now clad in a screen-like covering. The exterior screen – along with other cut out windows – are so-called ‘urban incisions’ that create a conversation with the greater bustling urban environment. 

Visitors are welcomed directly into the heart of the building through a side-street extension, part of the intricate network of alleyways in the area. The public entryway bridges the hotel directly to the city and its residents. A revamped nine-storey metal stairwell creates the effect of a there being a vertical courtyard. Meanwhile, the atrium above filters natural light from the rooftop. Each of the guestrooms has its own aesthetic identity with large windows connecting to the greater cityscape, keeping consistent with the rest of the hotel. A ‘floating’ roof is installed on the top floor, providing uninterrupted views of the dynamic cityscape. Outdoor garden space, a terrace and dining are also found here.  

Frame’s take

Nantou City, the site of the Nantou City Guesthouse, is an example of what Neri&Hu Design and Research Office liken to cheng-zhong-cun, meaning ‘urban village’ in Mandarin. ‘It is a phenomenon where the remnants of pre-industrial settlements are nestled amidst a seemingly modern metropolis,’ the designers describe. The design studio bonds the space to its cultural heritage in multiple ways. By highlighting and adding different layers to the space, the designers allude to how complex the urban surroundings are. Their ‘reflection on the cultural heritage of the mundane’ recognizes that the ‘mundane’ is what distinguishes one place from another. The hotel builds a distinctive identity by forging a unique space while still closely intertwining itself with what happens beyond its walls.