Fall Under the Spell of This M.C. Escher-Inspired Hotel in China
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Fall Under the Spell of This M.C. Escher-Inspired Hotel in China

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By Michele Koh Morollo
In Guilin, Studio 10 transforms two guest rooms in The Other Place to be mind-bending, whimsical retreats.

Inspired by the surreal labyrinths of Dutch artist M.C. Escher, whose landscapes feature upside-down staircases and other cases of impossible architecture, two new guest rooms have opened in The Other Place, a 10-room boutique hotel in Pingle County, Guilin—a southeastern part of China famous for its majestic, otherworldly karst mountains formed from eroded stone.

Dream is painted a soft pink. All the "mundane" components of daily life, such as lighting fixtures and electronic appliances, have been concealed behind a series of black doors. 

Dream is painted a soft pink. All the "mundane" components of daily life, such as lighting fixtures and electronic appliances, have been concealed behind a series of black doors. 

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The hotel—the brainchild of Harvard alumni Yi Feifei—aims to usher guests into an alternate reality. Different creative professionals were responsible for the interior design of the 10 rooms, but two of the most mesmerizing are the newly renovated Dream and Maze, each 650 square feet, which were created by Shenzhen–based, interdisciplinary firm Studio 10. 

"The pink palette for Dream corresponds to the color of cotton candy and marshmallows, or of sweet dreams, which for some reason I always imagine to be pinkish-toned," says Shi Zhou.

"The pink palette for Dream corresponds to the color of cotton candy and marshmallows, or of sweet dreams, which for some reason I always imagine to be pinkish-toned," says Shi Zhou.

Feifei approached Studio 10’s principal Shi Zhou with a request for something fresh, creative, unique, and otherworldly—a retreat that would be a true escape from city life. She also asked that they make the best use of the shape of these two rooms, which have pitched roofs and 23-f00t-high ceilings. 

Maze juxtaposes pink and green. The walls, floors, and ceilings are painted concrete. 

Maze juxtaposes pink and green. The walls, floors, and ceilings are painted concrete. 

Gravity-defying stairs look like they leapt from an Escher drawing.

Gravity-defying stairs look like they leapt from an Escher drawing.

The dreamscapes of Escher have fascinated Shi ever since she was in architectural school. "Escher's works are absolutely inspiring for architects," says Shi. "After visiting the site—then just a bare, concrete room—for the first time, while standing in the unusually high, chapel-like ceiling, I felt that this space offered the opportunity to do something spatially unique. An Escher-inspired design with surreal, anti-gravitational-like elements started to emerge."

Studio 10 concealed lighting fixtures and electronic appliances to keep the space clean, pure, and fantastical.

Studio 10 concealed lighting fixtures and electronic appliances to keep the space clean, pure, and fantastical.

With Maze and Dream, Shi had to find a balance between the practical needs of a hotel suite and awe-inspiring spatial effects. 

With Maze and Dream, Shi had to find a balance between the practical needs of a hotel suite and awe-inspiring spatial effects. 

A double-height living area receives plenty of natural light.

A double-height living area receives plenty of natural light.

Looking to Escher’s works such as Convex and Concave, Relativity, and Belvedere for ideas, Shi wove in non-angular elements such as arches and domes into both Dream and Maze. 

"We feel that arched doors and furniture seem more whimsical and playful, adding a bit fun, and softness to the rooms," she says. 

"The green walls of Maze make this room more mysterious, like the secret forest with hidden doors in fairy tales," says Shi.

"The green walls of Maze make this room more mysterious, like the secret forest with hidden doors in fairy tales," says Shi.

In Maze, stairs lead to golden doors, behind which (with a little imagination) one might find a trail leading deeper into an enchanted forest.

In Maze, stairs lead to golden doors, behind which (with a little imagination) one might find a trail leading deeper into an enchanted forest.

The hotel’s structure determined the layout, and the bathroom needed to be located close to the entrance corridor to gain access to the plumbing infrastructure.   

The hotel’s structure determined the layout, and the bathroom needed to be located close to the entrance corridor to gain access to the plumbing infrastructure.   

While both Dream and Maze have the same design concept, the different color scheme of the rooms—pastel pink for Dream, and forest green for Maze—makes each room a distinct entity. 

"Both of these color schemes express the concept of utopia or ‘The Other Place,’ and differentiate the rooms from the common spaces that we live in everyday," says Shi. 

Pale pink and white lends Dream its serene and surreal atmosphere.

Pale pink and white lends Dream its serene and surreal atmosphere.

The second floor and stairs are made of steel cladded with painted plywood or gypsum board. 

The second floor and stairs are made of steel cladded with painted plywood or gypsum board. 

Sectional drawing

Sectional drawing

First floor plan

First floor plan

Second floor plan

Second floor plan

Learn more about The Other Place and book Maze or Dream for $246 a night through Airbnb.

Project Credits: 

 Architecture: CBTGC 

Interior design: Studio 10 / @studio10design

Builder: Jinzhao Construction 

Structural and civil engineering: Fanben