CHENGDU, CHINA- Chengdu, as China’s gateway to her west, is a proud metropolis that shows off her historical side as staunchly as she embraces the modernity to become a proper global city. And there is probably no better hotel in Chengdu right now that embodies this spirit and attitude with more aplomb than the newest member of the self-styled Swire Group’s House Collective hotels, The Temple House.
Bespokcracy had a short sojourn at The Temple House just before 2015 came to a close. If you were as lucky as us, you would have been picked up in one of the hotel’s house cars and be greeted by a delightful member of the Guest Experience team. Enroute to the hotel, Kenny gave us a quick snapshot of what Chengdu is like as a city and how it has changed very rapidly just within the last decade or so. We were alluded to the fact that the hotel is actually part of a larger urban rejuvenation project called Taikoo Li undertaken also by the Swire Group (Taikoo is incidentally the name of the Swire Group in Chinese), in partnership with Sino-Ocean Land. This project is seen as a significant one given that it is situated within the historically-important grounds of the 1000-year-old Daci Buddhist Temple, deemed as one of the “Four Eminent Buddhist Monasteries” along the Yangtze River Basin and once even housed Chinese emperors traveling to the west.
Upon arriving at the hotel half an hour later, the delicate balance of the sensibility towards heritage preservation with the injection of the edgy chic contemporary style can be seen and felt immediately as we are led to the lobby through an immaculately-tended courtyard in a Qing-era heritage building framed by bamboo all around. It was in fact named for the scholars who transcribed decrees from the emperors from Manchu to Han Chinese back in the halcyon days. Venturing further into the compound, one can see the very apparent drawing of inspiration from Chengdu’s moniker of the “Brocade City”, what with the “woven” façade of perforated brickwork with interweaving brass elements to evoke the intricately beautiful Shu embroidery (the “brocade” in question) for which Chengdu is renowned for. One can quickly find other examples of this “woven-motif” in the lobby’s bespoke furniture from the lampshades which are seemingly hand-woven and a statement of a reception desk made from basket-esque brass filaments. And even before you see this, one cannot possibly miss and probably gawk at the magnificent staircase that leads down to the courtyard from the lobby which is meant to represent the terraced hills of the Sichuan countryside.
All these are the work of Fitzrovia-based Make Architects, the practice founded by Ken Shuttleworth, formerly of Foster and Partners. Katy Ghahremani, Make’s Lead Architect for the project, explains in the official statement from the hotel: “Our ambition for the hotel was to deliver a design in keeping with the project’s location and context. In this case, we have reflected the hotel’s heritage location by incorporating the original buildings into the design and introducing local themes such as terraced fields. It’s important to create a sense of place but also to integrate the design into the local community – so as to not to isolate it from its context.”
When we are led to our corner deluxe suite, the interiors and its corresponding amenities have all the trappings of a well-considered and gorgeously-appointed luxury hotel. The in-room/suite check-in was also a nice touch. As we took in our almost 2,000-square feet suite, the soothing and classy scheme of black, beige, brown and gray gives off more of the feeling of an apartment, more than a sterile hotel room. The technology is unsurpassed (we were able to hook up our laptops to the TV for example) and the huge bathtub was ever-so inviting.
Going beyond the rooms, more of the tastefully subtle architecture and design is prevalent in each of the ancillary buildings and amenity. First there is Teahouse which is an oasis in the heaving retail disquiet right outside of it, where you can have some of the best vegetarian food around. Then there is Tivano and The Temple Café for other carnivorous food options, the former elucidating a sort of New York 1920s-speakeasy glam. You would also want to visit the library and the adjoining art gallery which works with local galleries to showcase local artists and their fascinating contemporary art. And then there’s our favourite, Jing, the bar, with its imposing chandeliers and easy charm offering some wondrous libations to boot.
Seeing the effort to infuse all the Sichuan elements in such magnificence is something to be bowled over about. The service had a certain Chinese warmth to it, that is combined with an international sense of manners and etiquette, one really has little to complain about. I wonder though, how one highly-representative Chengdu element which is visibly missing would turn out if it was incorporated into the design of the compound- the giant panda. And if anyone can pull off cute and chic at the same time, maybe only Temple House can.