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This Chinese Sugar Mill Has Been Transformed into an Amazing Retreat

This Chinese Sugar Mill Has Been Transformed into an Amazing Retreat

Picture of Charlotte Luxford
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 3 January 2018

This intriguing industrial site might not appear like a luxury resort from the outside, but the 1960s sugar mill in China’s beautiful Yangshuo County was chosen by the Alila hotel group for its spectacular views, design potential and unique heritage.

The renovation of the mill and the design of the resort’s new contemporary structures was overseen by Beijing-based Vector Architects and the interiors were completed by the award-winning Horizontal Space Design. Both interior and exterior draw on both the industrial vernacular of the original site and its striking surroundings.

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Courtesy of Vector Architects

Yangshuo is well known for its dramatic landscape of karst mountains, lush green hills and winding rivers and has a rich cultural heritage. Guests will be able to explore the nearby ancient towns and their unique traditions, including the ‘Impressions of Liu Sanjie’, a legendary night-time water show performed on the scenic Li River.

Alila Yangshuo - Destination - Sunrise

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

Back at the hotel resort, guests can also take the Sugar House tour, where you can retrace the steps of the former mill workers and discover the complex sugar-making process of its artisans.

Alila Yangshuo - Exterior - Retro 01

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

Alila Yangshuo - F_B -Sugar House Restaurant - Outdoor

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

The Alila Yangshuo is an elegant yet contemporary resort, with the original mill building housing a sleek bar and cafe, grand hall, gallery and a substantial library. The industrial structure sits at the heart of the site, with the new buildings containing guest suites arranged around a sunken plaza, while the industrial truss, which looks towards the river, has been repurposed as a swimming pool.

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Courtesy of Vector Architects

Alila Yangshuo - Pool - Day Time 01

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

Despite being brand new, Vector Architects were sympathetic to the mill’s history by not only using traditional methods to construct the new buildings, but also by utilising board-formed concrete and hollow concrete blockwork to create a modern, clean-lined and industrial-style exterior that would be blend in seamlessly with the old structure.

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Courtesy of Vector Architects

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Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

Everything about the design encourages visitors to engage with their surroundings – the neutral colour scheme throughout only enhances the striking greenery of the hillsides beyond, with huge glazing framing incredible views of the countryside and large ponds reflecting the scenic landscape. In addition, wide perforated walkways and open-air lobbies invite guests to take time to stop and admire the view of the adjacent landscape.

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Courtesy of Vector Architects

Alila Yangshuo - F_B -Sugar House Restaurant - Level 2 01

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

The materials used for the interior design also enhance this connection with nature – cave-like structures have been introduced to echo those found in the karst mountains and the main guest room building mixes local stone with bamboo, adding warmth and texture to the suites. In addition, Horizontal Space Design has also touched upon the industrial aesthetic of the mill to give the interiors a contemporary edge and to bridge the gap between old and new.

Alila Yangshuo - Accommodation - King

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

Alila Yangshuo - Accommodation - Villa - Bathroom

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo

When you can pull yourself away from the pool and the incredible views, there are plenty of activities on offer through the hotel as well, from taking a raft down the river to world-class hiking and climbing; the bespoke activities are split into five categories: Cultural Learning, Conscious Living, Active Spirits, Culinary Arts and Couple Celebration, meaning there’s something for everyone.

Alila Yangshuo - River Biking

Courtesy of Alila Yangshuo