The Mist Hot Spring HotelJennifer Young • Photography courtesy of W Workspace • September 5, 2018
During the winter in China, many seek refuge from the harsh conditions in the East, particularly heading to Xuchang in Henan province, an area known for its ancient geothermal hot springs. Veils of soft, misty steam rise from the heated water hidden below, creating a tranquil, dream-like setting perfect for those seeking a sensory experience. To harness this feeling, Bangkok-based Department of Architecture Co. crafted the wholly immersive the Mist Hot Spring Hotel, a four-building, 400,000-square-foot complex that surrounds an island of natural hot springs on a manmade lake, with a design that seamlessly integrates with the terrain. The mix of volume, light, and water—key elements that pop up in the interiors, as well as some discreet, well-placed fog machines that fill in so as not to ruin the magic—provide moments of intrigue and awe.
Taking cues from colorized black and white films from the early 1900s—“when the artists handpainted transparent layers of colors onto black and white films, frame by frame”—the firm interpreted the hot springs through bold hues used to brighten the snow, somber sky, and leafless trees that form a “monochromatic picture with a rather gloomy impression for most of the winter,” says principal Amata Luphaiboon. An architectural façade of clear tempered glass that vacillates between blue and magenta tones (thanks to sandwiched translucent vinyl) floods the neutral-hued public spaces with colorful, translucent light and continues in some of the outdoor hot spring pools, which are housed in semi-enclosed pavilions made with the same glass, as well as the 51 wood veneer-wrapped guestrooms, connected by a series of bridges floating in atriums instead of typical corridors.
Coated in stainless steel and black stone, “shafts of natural light come in either from the skylight or the end wall,” he says of the atriums. Here, two mirror-finished fiberglass installations that represent two states of water, dew and water droplets, “stimulate an experience of an elusive sense of scale and gravity.” Meanwhile, the firm eschewed the staid grand ballroom for one bathed in an ethereal matrix of acrylic semi-transparent rings that create a striking abstract steam cloud, fully submerging guests in the drama of the design. Paired with cloud-like patterned carpet, the ceiling installation “gives an unusual feel of lightness to the space,” he says.
The “spectrum of light passing through hot steam” comes alive in the bar area, where 400,000 crystals laid in hundreds of layers hang from the ceiling and refract the natural light pouring through the expansive windows, Luphaiboon explains. “The lake landscape beyond is enchantingly seen through the sheer installation,” while flooring and furniture are drenched in ebony and gray to contrast the airy, white-clad mezzanine lobby above. To unify the spaces, the designers employed color crystals in the installation and created a specially designed acrylic floor lighting sculpture.
A darker palette also defines the restaurant, where a series of acrylic installations, “inspired by the silver lining silhouette of a dark cloud after the storm,” divides seating and kitchen zones, he adds. The design approach “was not conventional for us,” Luphaiboon admits, but “we were motivated by the absence of color,” which allowed him to transform the property in ways he could hardly imagine.