Design mediates the intimate scale of traditional Chinese architecture and the large spaces required
Famed for its canals, the Chinese city of Suzhou is known as 'Venice of the East'. Located in the historic centre of Suzhou, the Sheraton Hotel is designed to complement the three famous monuments in its vicinity: the Suzhou City Wall, Ruiguang Ta Pagoda, and Wumen Bridge. The unique setting called for a design approach that references traditional Suzhou architecture without compromising the functionality of a modern hotel.
The first challenge was to ensure modularity in the design of the guest bedrooms. Modeled on traditional houses in Suzhou, the 400 guest bedrooms in the Sheraton are grouped around garden courtyards and along canals with access through meandering passages. A menu of guestroom types was created using two standard room sizes, two roof eave lengths and three window types, resulting in staggered blocks of different heights to create complexity in massing.
The second challenge was to mediate between the intimate scale of traditional Chinese architecture and the large spaces required by the hotel. The historic city wall is reinterpreted as a fortified podium to accommodate public function spaces and back-of-house facilities. Guests enter the hotel via a formal approach celebrated by massive ramps. Stylised pavilions house the main lobby, a specialty restaurant and the presidential suite above the ramparts.
Local finishing materials and fittings were used, including beige granite from and dark clay bricks, roof tiles with ornamental ridges and drips, handcrafted timber screens, cast iron grilles and copper gratings. With its distinctive adaptation of traditional Suzhou architecture, the Sheraton Hotel has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Since its opening in 1998, the hotel has enjoyed high occupancy. An extension of 80 rooms was added in 2004, with a further annex of 100 deluxe rooms in 2006.