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Elegant Simplicity

Sophia 2018-04-11 09:34

Four Seasons Kyoto resides in the city which bears thousands of years of Japanese history. Since Emperor Kanmu shifted the capital to Heian-kyo (former Kyoto) in A. D. 794, until Tokyo took over as the capital in A. D. 1868, Kyoto had always been the capital city of Japan. Despite having passed through a tumultuous history, most architecture in Kyoto remains intact. Palaces, gardens, temples, and shrines stand still in the city. One would say that it is a great shame if a new architectural project fails to match with the city’s temperament, so amazingly enriched as it is with historical elements.

Designed to be a haven of quiet dignity and discreet expression, the Four Seasons Kyoto’s design narrative was carefully planned, surrounding the 800-year-old Ikeniwa Pond of Shakusuien Pond Garden, inviting guests to engage with nature through its blueprint. A rich model of modernism resonates throughout the hotel while carefully maintaining traditional Japanese philosophies of architecture.


Kyoto Culture Infused in the Spatial Design

At the beginning of the design process, many aspects needed to be considered: the proximity to the culturally sensitive Imahie Jingū Shrine, The Kyoto National Museum, the protected Ikeniwa Pond and the exacting standards of the Four Seasons Hotel’s team. Eventually Agnes Ng, partner and Chief Designer of HBA, succeeded in presenting the master-project: it is inspired by the pursuit of the traditional Kyoto culture, combined by the understanding based upon the Shakusuien Pond Garden and the surrounding temples; added by different elements and finally exhibited through the subtle balance of sense of history, the geographical location, and the shifts of seasons. “We started researching this project five years ago, and we were soon amazed by the splendid history of Kyoto and Ikeniwa Pond. Through elegant yet low-profile design, simplistic style and exquisite details, the perfect effect was thus created,” explains Ng.


However, the charm of fusion doesn’t come from mere construction of materials. Though the hotel spatially aligns with the garden and temple nearby, the general design would be unexpectedly absurd if the hotel simply surrendered to its surroundings and failed to express the genuine charm of Kyoto’s culture. Hence the real challenge for the designer was how the teamwork could result in the comfortable experience for the residents through the fusion of elegant hotel design and splendid history, instead of paying lone homage to the design. Meanwhile, how to create the bond between the hotel and the surrounding environment through teamwork and conceptions, as well as leaving a refined impression and down-to-earth local experience are also within the range of considerations in the design.


In this way, the designer implemented her ideas simply through her homage to the local culture and the Shakusuien Pond Garden. Visually from every corner of the hotel the beauty of Shakusuien Pond Garden is within sight, enabling the general design and each single space a perfect window to enjoy the spectacular scene of Ikeniwa Pond。


Kyoto Scenery Engraved in the Passage of Time

The idea of fusion doesn’t merely reside in the Shakusuien Pond Garden. It is also inherited with the interpretation of Kyoto history and culture in different spaces. Arriving at the hotel, guests are first expected to walk across a bamboo field to meet the tranquil Japanese scene. Kyoto is one of the very few cities in the world blessed distinctive seasons and marvelous scenery associated with each. Through the large window design, guests witness the cherry blossoms bloom in the spring, bamboos gently sway in the summer, leaves redden in the fall, and snow covering the land in the winter; nothing is missed.


Taking the seasonal view of Kyoto into the consideration of the design is an organic part of the “Charm of Kyoto” as well. The spacious lobby dynamically reflects the shifting Kyoto sceneries in different seasons, while the static spatial design, ever-changing window sceneries, the gentle shadow casted through Shōji doors, the floor equipped by natural Aji stones, all give you the impression of a Zen garden.

As of this aspect, Agnes shares her idea, “The essence of the lobby lies in its simplicity and generosity of its gestures. The harmonious integration of space and environment lends to the importance of the site’s context – the pond. Large discreet spaces of respite and dramatic linear views to the pond and beyond dictate the lobby space – the design orchestrates a sense of simple elegance, sensuality and discovery that reveals a further focal point to the pond.”


Defining the Tone of Japanese Charm

Other than the space and time, to introduce the exterior charm of Kyoto to the interior along with the designing details is also a critical part in the tone of the architecture. The apartments are mainly focused on the creation of tranquility and privacy. Accompanied by the combination of colours and decorative elements, the traditional Japanese house style is thus shown.

The quiet and elegantly simple lines of wooden slats that greet guests upon entering the space are enhanced by the deliberate shadows cast by light that sheds through. Fusuma screens decorated with artwork by local echo artists further celebrate the culture. The view to the outdoor sanctuary is framed by oak wood architrave that acts as a center point, immersing guests in Kyoto’s heritage. Traditional tatami was implemented in a modern way to preserve and respect Kyoto’s tradition by adding a Japanese pattern motif.


In the usage of colours, the design team divided the colours according to the surrounding environment to echo the tone and seasonal sceneries, and fit in the harmony of the overall environment. In Kyoto’s culture, purple is the colour of royal families and plays a crucial role in coordinating the entire hotel after deliberate thinking of the team. A vibrant purple hue is used throughout the design, providing a stately and royal context for the country. Natural edge-carved oak wood flooring enhances the natural Japanese imperial villa experience. Restrooms are a luxurious space for guests to immerse themselves in the calming, soothing effects of water inspired by the pond. Decorative vertical stone walls and a luxurious rain shower create an oasis for guests to relax, simulating a waterfall within a bamboo forest.

Through the self-defined tone, the hotel echoes with Kyoto’s ancient architecture both inside and out. Moreover, the soul of the hotel speaks the same language as the Shakusuien Pond Garden, and tells the story of the historical yet delicate Kyoto city. The current time and the elapsed time thus meet and interpret the essential charm of Japanese culture.

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