MEET THE HOTELS RESHAPING AND RESTORING URBAN LIFESTYLES IN CHINA
For a long time hotels served exclusively as a second home for travellers, with most services provided only relevant to people staying temporarily in a destination and public areas, such as the fitness centre or spa, solely open to hotel guests. However, with the rise of sociable hotels like the Ace and Standard, urban animals started to realise that hotels could also be cool hubs to hang out. And now, with various city programmes being offered by the likes of Airbnb, hoteliers have clocked on to the fact that hotel spaces provide options that sharing economy models cannot and that hotels, especially in urban areas, should take advantage of this to attract locals and reshape their urban lifestyles. Think about your daily life in a city: working, eating, shopping, working out and going out. Done right, all of these activities can be done in a hotel.
Case in point: CHAO, one of the most popular hotels in Beijing and an active and innovative player in this trend. The hotel is located at Sanlitun, one of the most dynamic areas in Beijing. Along with the hotel rooms and restaurants, the most distinguished aspect of CHAO is its public space. When entering the hotel, a modern staircase will lead you to a high-ceilinged hall that can be used as a wedding or event venue. Underneath, there is a space facing the street that can be transformed into a corner shop or pop-up space. What’s more, the underground area, which serves as a back office or operational space in most hotels, is actually a mixed-use space containing a gallery, cinema and theatre.
In the last couple of months, CHAO has hosted a great deal of events for the public, including weekly yoga by the pool, a pop-up kitchen in the private dining room and an exhibition for Visionaire magazine’s 25th anniversary. On the rooftop of the hotel, it also invited two artists to create an illustration and filmed the whole process. As the brand’s leader, Maurice Li, says, “CHAO is dedicated to establishing a platform for the creative class, not just a hotel for travellers.”
Further to this, CHAO has just launched a brand new chapter in another area of Beijing called CHAO workclub. The interior design is consistent with that of the hotel, presented in clean lines and quality facilities. Unlike most co-working spaces in Beijing, CHAO workclub is designed for individuals working in the creative industry; besides various types of function room, shooting and recording rooms are also part of the setup. A well-designed coffee bar and 24-hour gym are available to those who rent spaces here. Moreover, professionals from CHAO can help start-up companies with government paperwork and even support regarding human resources.
If CHAO is dedicated to shaping the way urban people work and play today, the upcoming Capella Shanghai is committed to refreshing a historical neighbourhood, proving that moving into the future doesn’t have to mean disregarding the past.
The hotel is located at one of the distinctive shikumen residential communities within Xuhui District, called Jianyeli neighborhood. Shikumen is built in the unique architectural style of Shanghai, combining a Western building style with Chinese courtyard structures. First built in the 1850s by Europeans in foreign concessions to rent to Chinese residents, the buildings in Jianyeli were rebuilt in the 1930s by a French developer and were granted heritage protection by the city government in 1994. In order to preserve these historical buildings, professionals were employed by the government and hotel owners to restore most of the buildings, transforming them into the upcoming Capella Shanghai – even though the restoration is quite controversial, with some experts saying bricks and window frames have been replaced. The appearance of these buildings, and even the distance between the rows of buildings, is exactly the same as the originals.
With the revival of interest in legacy and tradition, old communities like Janyeli are reshaping modern urban lifestyles without alienating their heritage, refreshing the area by bringing in retailers, restaurateurs and hoteliers who know how to serve the new generation. Arguably, this reconciliation of heritage and modernity represents the unique point of view, rooted in contrasts, that is making China such a compelling destination for contemporary travellers.
The Capella Shanghai will open this June as the only all-villa urban resort in Shanghai, with 55 Shikumen-style villas and 40 luxury service apartments to lease. Besides hotels and apartments, it will develop a retail area called ‘gallery’. Boutique stores, a coffee shop and a tailor, as well as lifestyle spaces, will also be introduced into this community. Restaurants, the thing Chinese people care about most, will be delivered by French chef Pierre Gagnaire. With the Michelin Guide introduced in Shanghai only last year, the city is a new battlefield for many famous restaurants and chefs. Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire by Capella will be the first restaurant opening by Gagnaire in mainland China.