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Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

John Pauline of HASSELL tells us how the first sustainable boutique hotel on China’s Mount Wawu is being designed to respond sensitively to its location.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel


July 10th, 2013

When completed in 2014, Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel will offer visitors stunning views of the neighbouring peaks and valleys from its vantage point on the summit edge of Sichuan Province’s largest mountain plateau.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

Located 2,600 metres above sea level, the project is being designed as an 80-room boutique hotel with 10 villas set amid lush fog-enshrouded forests and cascading waterfalls.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

The area and surrounding national park is home to more than 200 species of birds and the endangered red panda; the summit is also covered in primitive firs and dragon spruces.

Sustainability was thus a key driver for the Wawu Shan project, and the buildings have been designed to work around the ancient trees to ensure that the natural heritage of the site remains intact. The project will also use locally sourced materials to reduce the carbon footprint of transporting building materials from outside Mount Wawu.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

The hotel will be designed to cope with the extreme climate, such as snow cover for many months of the year, and guests will only be able to access the mountain top by cable car.

We ask HASSELL’s John Pauline, the lead designer for this project, to tell us more.

How is the project designed to respond to its location?

The project is beautifully located on the edge of one of the world’s largest table top mountains. We deliberately positioned our hotel so that it connected with the cliff edge and interacted with the drama of the location. The walls of the cliff face are nearly 500m tall, and so we wanted parts of the hotel, such as the Spa and Business Centre, to literally launch themselves into the space above this edge.


We also created a public plaza that connects directly to the cliff edge at multiple levels. The rooms of the hotel itself are set back from the edge so that the dramatic views to the horizon are integrated with the tree line.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

The VIP villas are lifted into the tree line, so that they can simultaneously benefit from the distant views, while also appearing to be floating within the trees themselves.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

There is also an existing clearing in the forest at this location, so we have placed our building forms in positions that require the least amount of trees to be removed.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel
What are the most unique features about this project?

We have taken the standard diagram of a Hotel and dispersed its functions. Instead of creating a compact hotel form to boost efficiency, we have positioned the various aspects of the hotel around the site to specifically consider the views, aspect and especially the natural environmental conditions. A priority has been given to making sure that the natural habitat is disturbed as little as possible.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

All of the dispersed functions of the hotel are connected by covered elevated walking platforms that allow the visitors to experience the beauty of the site as they move through the spaces.

The dramatic beauty of the site, at all times, is given precedence over the building forms themselves.

Wawu Shan Resort and Hotel

What is the key challenge that your team will have to tackle?

The key challenge is to be always respectful to the site’s fragile environment. The architecture is subservient to its location and must always be harmonious to its context. Building materials, construction sequencing and sustainable services systems will all be considered to try to maintain this ambition.


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