Iconic Luxury on the “Chinese Riviera”

The Pullman Oceanview Resort is the flagship for the Accor Group’s line of 6-star hotels and is located in Sanya on Hainan Island at the southernmost tip of China. Often referred to as “China’s Riviera”, Sanya is now home to some of the world’s most prestigious hotels and casinos.  In fact the view from the Pullman is of the magnificent Phoenix Island Casino and Resort.


Phoenix Island Casino and Resort

I feel privileged to have been a part of the early development of Sanya and what is now a booming tourism centre.  The design of the Pullman resort, created while consulting to B+H Architects in Shanghai,  is inspired by the vernacular architecture of Southeast Asia, abstracted and given a modern twist.

Hotel Perspective 1 DEC 4 2007

Perspective sketch of initial concept, with pool and lobby (2007)

Pullman Sanya - Lobby Poolside

Lobby, under construction (2010, left) and illustration (2008, right)

I recall heading to China in 2007, to work on the competition for this project.  B+H was shortlisted in the early stages of the competition with a design concept centered around a vaulted, triple-height lobby space that terraced down towards the ocean.  As we refined our design concepts, I reflected on the previous four years and having had the opportunity to visit some of the world’s greatest hotels.  Conceptually, I was able to draw from first hand luxury resort experiences at the InterContinental in Bora Bora (Tahiti), The Mount Nelson in Cape Town (South Africa), the Berns in Stockholm (Sweden), and the Royal Livingston Resort in Zambia as well as many others.  As the principal designer for this project, I felt uniquely and experientially qualified.

Pullman Oceanview Sanya Bay Resort & Spa - illustration and mockup

Lobby illustration (left), lobby structural model at site (right)

Despite having these references in mind, my initial concepts were actually humble proposals.  It wasn’t until I arrived in Sanya and toured the hotels of Yalong Bay that I discovered the extreme appetite for luxury that existed in this part of China.  Three beachfront resorts, each more elaborate and unique in their own right, were nearing completion.  By touring these projects I was able to understand the importance of creating something that would complement and rival these palatial resorts, while also realizing that my design scheme would need to be as aesthetically compelling today – as it would four years later upon completion.

Pullman Oceanview Sanya Bay Resort & Spa under construction 1

Poolside villas, under construction (2010)

I quickly understood that the lobby was the most critical element in defining the customer experience.  Two critical factors informed our initial design conversation; the grandeur of the space needed to be unprecedented in the region, and the guest arrival experience had to incorporate the magnificent ocean front view from the lobby.  With this in mind, we created numerous working models, which later informed the construction process.  I’ve included an image of one of the models that was built by the construction team on site as lobby construction proceeded.

Pullman Sanya - Conference Centre

Conference centre, under construction (left) and illustration (right)

Eighteen months after the design work had been completed, I returned to Sanya to tour the site and provide on the spot refinements.  By this time the concrete super structure (the skeleton) had been completed and each of the design elements (the actual spaces within the hotel) had been fully realized.  It’s at this stage that you really get the “feel” of the space.  While concrete can be somewhat overwhelming as a design material, I felt confident in our choice to clad the interior spaces and the bowed roof elements of the exterior in materials that would evoke the wood architecture indigenous to Southeast Asia.  While definitively grand in scale, the overall feeling would be both warm and inviting.

View of lobby with poolside, all-day dining

The Pullman Resort now welcomes thousands of tourists each year, and is part of a burgeoning Chinese tourism economy.  While the recent downturn in the Asian economy has tempered the growth of the tourism industry the luxury market continues to develop as Sanya grows in popularity and is now on the list of places to visit in China.

%d bloggers like this: