circle of structured pillars above a rock wall
Two-story suites enjoy private terraces, which are separated from one another by tall partitions but still open to views via parabolic cutouts.

Get in Touch With Nature at Shanan Anji Deep Stream Hotel

Midway up the north slope of China’s Tianmu Mountain, hidden amongst the lush bamboo forest, the dramatic geometries of a complex of peach-hued buildings emerge from the greenery as if partially ruined, and reclaimed by nature over time. Yet the majority of Shanan Anji Deep Stream, a four-story boutique hotel, is brand new, courtesy of Fununit Design founder and design director Eason Zhu— a mechanical engineering graduate who recently pivoted to architecture and spent two years developing everything from the property’s floor plans to its artworks and visual identity, as his very first built project.

An approximate two-hour drive from Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing, this scenic rural area—referred to by the Chinese as “bamboo village”—is a popular destination for weekend getaways. Zhu and his client’s aim is to bestow full immersion in natural tranquility for those “living in the city, who work so hard and are so tired,” he begins. And where better to escape to than an uninterrupted green mountain landscape, which this 17-key hotel boasts as the highest property in the area and maximizes through the orientation of its spaces, while ensuring privacy and seclusion.

How the Design of Shanan Anji Deep Stream Hotel Invites Guests to Unwind

exterior facade of the resort with the green mountain scenery in background
The property’s three buildings, the taller two the ground-up construction, are built from rammed earth and oriented to face the bamboo groves.

Upon arrival at the bottom of the site, guests are guided up a winding stairway through the tall bamboo—a journey intended “to slow people down,” Zhu notes— to the small compound of structures perched on the slope. Tea is provided while the new arrivals gaze out through giant picture windows of the reception area, located within an old building, dubbed Chi, that Zhu converted into a common space for guests to unwind. Also containing a bar and a lounge, the rough-troweled plaster interior offers a minimalist take on traditional Chinese architecture, and its chocolate brown color is contrasted by paler-toned furniture. “There’s a fireplace, low lighting, and everything is more natural, more relaxed,” Zhu describes.

Additional buildings were constructed on either side of the communal hub: one four-story block next door on the same axis and a separate two-story volume that’s angled to face a slightly different yet equally captivating view. Both contain two-level guest suites and are built using the rammed earth that gives the entire compound its distinctive peachy hue. “In recent years in China, a lot of white buildings have been built in the mountains,” Zhu explains, revealing that his decision to buck the trend came from a budgetary restriction; it was cheaper to construct the hotel using material excavated from the site. Existing stones were also repurposed, stacked to form exterior retaining walls to cut costs.

Design Details Include Heated Floors and Outdoor Baths

aerial view of the staircase with surrounding greenery
Designed to intentionally slow down guests upon their arrival, a winding stairway leads up from the parking area to the main entry.

Although the purse strings were tight, Zhu splashed out on “details that guests really notice” like the bathroom fixtures and underfloor heating and placing indoor and outdoor bathing areas in prime spots for views. He also referenced the work of iconic international architects. At the angled building, named Xu, for instance, private outdoor hot tubs are positioned in front of parabolic openings, reminiscent of those that front Oscar Niemeyer’s Alvorada Palace in Brazil and E. Stewart Williams’s Coachella Valley Savings & Loan bank in California. Spanning between tall partitions that offer total privacy for each suite, the U-shape elements frame scenes of the mountain opposite, which can also be appreciated from both levels inside thanks to full-height glazing. 

In Yi, the other accommodation block, secluded ground-level terraces are tucked away at the back, so bedrooms in front enjoy the premium aspect. The goal in each room type was to make the natural surroundings take center stage, and all else is there to ensure a comfortable setting from which to look out, or a base from which to venture and explore. “When we conceived the hotel, we wanted guests to get lost in nature, so the design follows the less is more idea, while the views let guests forget their busy urban lives,” Zhu elaborates. 

Natural Light and Minimalist Furnishings Create Calm 

bathroom with white marble tub, skylight and windows to outside
Some rooms feature a skylight over the tub.

The suites feature lighter-colored troweled plaster than in the communal spaces, remaining bright and airy along with neutral-toned upholstery and sculptural furnishings—many of which are custom by Zhu. Circular skylights are another recurring motif throughout the 21,000-square-foot property, theatrically illuminating stairwells and providing snapshots of the sky above bathtubs. Natural light is manipulated via thin openings and curved surfaces in the corridors that connect the guest rooms, creating an effect that the architect likens to the “trancelike” experience of being inside Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Milà in Spain. 

The almost monastic quality that Zhu has created with his debut architectural opus is remarkably effective at promoting a slow and peaceful atmosphere across the site. His respectful nods to modernist landmarks are executed in earthy colors and textured materials for a warmer effect than many contemporary buildings possess. After their therapeutic breaks, Shanan guests descend the mountain and return to their bustling urban environs, hopefully with cleared minds and reinvigorated bodies, having been somewhat reclaimed by nature themselves. 

Walk Through Shanan Anji Deep Stream Hotel

open dining space with moody palette and hanging pendants
Reception and its communal dining area overlook the site’s lush bamboo forest through floor-to-ceiling windows.
front desk lobby with brown desk and moody palette
Reception is anchored by a custom desk, softly illuminated by hidden LEDs.
room with white couches, arched fireplace and neutral palette
The tearoom, and all public areas, features textured plaster walls contrasted with lighter-toned custom furniture.
outdoor pool with a view of the mountains and the resort rooms
Public spaces lead out to a terrace with swimming pool.
sitting room with white couch, black and white art
In a guest room at Shanan Anji Deep Stream in China, much of the furniture and artwork is custom by Fununit Design, which designed the entire 17-key hotel, a small compound of renovated and new buildings.
hotel room with block pillow and nook facing the scenery
Darker plaster wraps a guest-room’s seating nook.
room with couch, black and white artwork and window with view to outside
Neutral tones were chosen for guest rooms to direct attention to the natural surroundings.
circle of structured pillars above a rock wall
Two-story suites enjoy private terraces, which are separated from one another by tall partitions but still open to views via parabolic cutouts.
outside spa area with white chaise and view of scenery
Situated right beside the private-terrace cutouts, hot tubs are for year-round use.
hotel room with nature inspired furnishings
Sparsely furnished and mostly monochromatic, the suites have a monastic quality that is echoed across the project.
room with floor seating, hanging light and sink in back
A guest suite includes a sitting area for tea.
room with high ceiling, brown bed and view to outside scenery
A square skylight caps a two-story suite.
sleek bathroom with circular skylight, brown walls and fancy furnishings
A hot-springs room has uniquely sited cutouts in the plaster ceiling and wall.
building structure with neutral palette
In guest-room corridors, carefully placed openings control how natural light enters.
staircase with dark palette and lights
Sun streaming in from ceiling oculi casts theatrical shadows in a stairwell.
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