The hotel of Escher’s dreams has finally come to life in China

Guilin, China – There is a reason why some of M. C. Escher’s lithographs – namely Relativity, Ascending and Descending and Convex and Concave – were self-filed under the category of ‘Impossible Constructions’: they were never meant to exist, as the laws of physics would forbid it.

Don’t tell that to Studio 10, a Chinese design firm: their latest hospitality project features Escher’s signature mindbending stairways-to-nowhere.
Located in the Pingle County, one of China’s top destinations for nature tourism, The Other Place Guilin Litopia is a boutique hotel with 10 independently designed guestrooms. Two of those, Dream and Maze, are in Escherian territory: the former uses pale pink to create the illusion of infinite space; the latter surreally blends 2D and 3D elements through a forest-green palette.

Studio 10 founder Shi Zhou had admired the Dutch artist’s work for a long time, but his style wasn’t initially part of the brief. It was during the first site visit, when the rooms were still in unfinished concrete, that the angles and arches of the Belvedere lithograph came to mind. ‘We were standing in that space with some unusually high ceilings – 7.6 metres with a pitched roof – and some obscure thoughts started to emerge,’ laughed Zhou.

The client was up for it. A Harvard alumna with a former life in finance in Hong Kong, Feifei Yi left the noise of Asia’s most fast-paced cities behind, and instead decided to focus on a hospitality project that would allow weary urbanites to ‘discover the other possibilities of life.’ In a former hotel in Guilin, a rural spot close to the Li River and its awe-inducing karst mountains, she found her spot. The entrepreneur had asked Studio 10 for a ‘unique, otherworldly’ renovation that wouldn’t play second fiddle to the natural environment, and Zhou’s proposal fit the bill.

That doesn’t mean bringing it to life was an easy task. To achieve the dream-like effect they desired, the team had to figure out clever ways to conceal the components that recall everyday real life – that’s why you no lighting fixtures or electrical outlets are immediately visible. The layout of the former hotel had bathrooms close to the corridor due to the piping scheme, and that made them shift the entire living sections towards the windows, so as to secure the natural light that would make the angles and shadows pop. And once they had figured out the technical aspects, there was the matter of communicating instructions to some very puzzled local contractors – for example, the anti-gravitational stairs lead to doors that work as semi-secret compartments. The Studio 10 team realized, then, that drawings were of no use – they had to provide indications verbally instead.

But the effort was worth it: the rooms have been a hit. The Other Place opened in November and, although the hotel has eight other rooms, 90 per cent of the tagged Instagram photos are from people admiring Dream and Maze. M. C. Escher would have been proud.

Location Building #89, Sunshine100 Lijiang Cultural Resort, FuxingTown, Pingle County, Guilin

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