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.