Yearbook > Edition 17 > Architectural Verve - Think
Cover image
View of Lion’s Den Hotel from the main road.

Left image (desktop & tablet), Bottom image (mobile)
The vicinity’s name is translated as the “Cliff of the Lion’s mouth”. Thus, the building is designed as an abstract of a lion’s head with the copper-roofed area depicting the “lion’s mane” and main entranceway as the “mouth”, receiving its visitors head on.

Into the lion’s den

The rural country living urbanised

It is not often one gets to experience nature all around – literally. But this boutique hotel nestled amidst the mountainous terrain of Pingjiang County China is a sight to behold.

Singaporean multi-disciplinary designer Keat Ong at Nota Design Group, mixed modern architecture with a sustainable and highly contextual approach. The result? A series of minimalist cabins – a great weekend retreat for a refreshingly simple life.

 “The hotel group rented part of the village land based on both its scenic quality and good geographical location. Journey from Changsha Airport and railway is under two hours,” says Ong who is also the firm’s founder. “The remote location is ideal for city dwellers who are single, couples and big families, and are looking for a short getaway.”

Enclaved within a 12 metre high terraced slope and flatland which consists of small hills and knolls, the site was key in the design’s development. When viewed from the main road, the development looks like a group of lions’ dens in the backdrop with an alpha lion guarding the front and thus the name, Lion’s Den Hotel.

“Architecturally, the building embraces the nature and its surroundings in a non-intrusive yet contrasting way” explains Ong. “Interior wise, the space is designed to engage the natural environment outside both physically and visually.”

“Architecturally, the building embraces the nature and its surroundings in a non-intrusive yet contrasting way. Interior wise, the space is designed to engage the natural environment outside both physically and visually.”

Eco-friendly Elevations

First the plot is divided into two sections. The huts are situated on the slope terraces to exploit the 180 degree mountain view outside. The larger building block is located on the flatland to function both as an entrance structure as well as a communal shelter for the eight guest huts. The shelter houses a dining area, a convenient store, a pair of toilets, barbecue pits, viewing platform and a sheltered walkway.

The huts with floor areas from 36 to 52 square metres each, feature interiors designed to look sparse with a flat ceiling inside and a flat roof from the outside. This is achieved by having two levels of reinforced concrete flat roof. Customised air-conditioning vents hides fan coil units from inside the huts.

A modular trellis system hides the outdoor condenser units as well as other mechanical and electrical facilities on the exterior. Due to the proximity of each hut from each other, edges of each hut is also trimmed with an aluminum light reflector system which provides all round arial lighting for the pathways, avoiding the need for expensive outdoor waterproof light fittings.

Each hut can be converted into a single bed room as well as a twin bed one. This dual purpose is achieved by having a sliding system that sits on the “beam” which is also the bedside tables, allowing one bed to be able to slide to the other to form a single bed. Full-height side windows open towards nature, away from the other huts.

With environment-sustainability in mind, steel structure is chosen to provide the main framework due to its recyclability. Old recycled timber is used for the flooring and trellises for the same reason as with the huts. The building materials age beautifully and require minimum maintenance.

Appliances & Gadgets

The designer created a total of eleven kitchen gadgets and appliances for Future Kitchen. By scanning one of the QR codes positioned on the green surfaces, Future Kitchen visitors could discover the designs on a smart device.

They included a transparent, horizontal refrigerator, designed to ensure that all the food and drink stored inside is always visible, thus avoiding unnecessary opening and searching. The waste heat it generates can be used to warm plates.

Another invention is a trapezoid-shaped, ultra-thin, portable hotplate which cooks and keeps meals warm. The overhead oven can descend from the ceiling when required and is also transparent to reduce heat losses from unnecessary opening of the door. For all inventions, Häberli made resource conservation the key concept.

An exterior view of the common shelter in the evening.
This building consist of three components – the left and right “shelled volumes” as well as the centre trellised-covered volume. Material of choice for the “shell” is oxidized copper roofing sheets, with an attempt to blend in with the surrounding, allowing the form itself to provide the contrast.

Divide & Conquer

Nota Design Group has diverted its focus to China since 2005 after venturing into some Southeast Asian countries. To date, Nota Design Group has firm roots in China having managed award-winning projects in the country for more than a decade. “I believe Singapore firms cannot be complacent with the local market alone as it is simply not sustainable in the long run. We have to set our eyes on the markets beyond.”

Ong who is also the President of Society of Interior Designers, Singapore admits that the journey to break into China has been arduous. He attests his success to sheer perseverance and having found the correct Chinese partners to move its operations inroads.

The multi-award winning firm’s recent projects include the Changsha City Museum, Changsha City Library, H3 Experience Centre in Yunnan and two museums in Yueyang underway.

Nota Design Group,