Beijing is a city of contrasts. Alongside cutting-edge architecture by the likes of Zaha Hadid and OMA are neighborhoods where traditional hutongs reside. These alleyways flanked by courtyard residences dominate Houhai, a centrally situated district boasting a lake and adjacent park where locals practice erhu or tai chi daily. Within a 1950s-budget hotel, Singapore-based Ministry of Design (MOD) was tasked to give the first VUE property a contemporary boutique edge.
“The site comprises of quasi-historic residential buildings, with a variety of architectural styles and approaches,” recalls Colin Seah, MOD’s founder and design director. Along with decorative roof eaves, gargoyles, sculptured balconies, and lattice window frames, “our design approach was to unify this diverse collection through color and landscaping,” he says. Buildings were draped with a dark charcoal gray coat of paint, and key architectural details were highlighted with a contemporary gold patina.
Within the expanded 80 rooms, cobalt, fuchsia, and sunshine yellow accents amplify the neutral palette to reiterate the colors of MOD’s art throughout the property. Some even offer private decks or balconies with lake views.
“We imagined a narrative where lakeside animals such as deer, rabbits, and foxes come to life as human-like mascots or companions for the hotel guests—these animals make the hotel their second home,” explains Seah. To that point, 15-feet-tall wireframe pink rabbits live on the roof of the aptly named Pink Rabbit restaurant, which boasts an abstract screen pattern—derived from cracking frozen ice on a lake—that was extrapolated as a wall treatment to underscore existing steel roof trusses in the restaurant. “As a hardscape pattern, it unifies the different buildings into a seamless entity,” he says. Contrasting the angular lines of the pattern are weathered gray bricks from the original structure that were left unadorned. “We felt it tied in with the overall hutong aesthetic,” he says.
As the brand’s flagship project, the hotel is an eclectic counterpoint to the traditional Chinese luxury hotel. “Guests experience a distinction between the historic versus the contemporary,” Seah says. “A subtle juxtaposition that underscores the rich tension arising from any adaptive reuse design.”
✅ free Wi-Fi • 80 rooms (27-135m2) • hotel opened: June 2017 ✅ free on-site parking • 24-hour front desk • no pets allowed • Prince Gong’s Mansion: 7-minute walk • Beihai North Station: 9-minute walk • Hou Hai bar street: 9-minute walk • Forbidden City: 2.8 km • Tiananmen Square: 4.1 km • Beijing Capital International Airport: 23.2 km