A tip from my Travel + Leisure hotline: If seeing the Great Wall of China is at the top of your bucket list, you can stay practically within touching distance of i, and in great style, at Commune by the Great Wall. In 2001, a dozen prominent Asian architects were invited to build their dream villas at the site. Considered a new Chinese wonder, the resort has since grown into an enclave of 35 dramatic contemporary houses, some rented by the night in their entirety, some offering individual hotel rooms. As Traveler describes it, "In a poetic juxtaposition, your view presents what China was—a stronghold against the world—whereas your villa represents what it's poised to be: a dynamic, forward-thinking force." Our pick of the lodgings: Japanese architect Kengo Kuma's dreamy Bamboo Wall house, which proved so popular, Commune constructed six replicas of it. Here's the original:
Photographs via Commune by the Great Wall, unless noted.
Above: Part of the structure is built over a pool of water (though the replicas rise over a gravel garden). The walls are constructed of bamboo canes spaced to allow in light. The walkway leads to a very memorable setting for tea.
Above: The house's six bedrooms have futons resting on tatami mats. In this one, a wooden kimono rack serves as sculpture and a place to drape clothes.
Above: The design of the house was inspired by classic Chinese construction and by the rambling Great Wall itself, which rises as part of the landscape. Kengo Kuma writes that he consciously called his design a wall, not a house, and adds: "The Great Wall in the past partitioned off two cultures, but this Bamboo Wall would not only partition but also unite life and culture."
Above: A bamboo ceiling, walls, and supports in the dining room. (The house has a kitchen, but we were informed by the hotel that it's ornamental, and that there are two restaurants on site, one Chinese, the other Western style.) Photograph via Inspiration Green.
Above: Bamboo of many widths was employed, including bamboo cups for accessories.
Above: In a bedroom, a modern version of a classic Chinese low seat is situated windowside.
Above: After hiking on the Great Wall and touring the other houses on the property, your own lounge awaits with views of the Shuiguan Mountains. Photograph via Inspiration Green.
Commune by the Great Wall is an hour and 15 minute drive from the Beijing airport. It has its own private path to a verdant, unrestored part of the Badaling section of the Great Wall. The original Bamboo Wall house sleeps 12 and rents for RMB15,000 (approximately $2,460 per night, or about $200 per person, plus a 15 percent service charge). Individual rooms are available in the Bamboo Wall house replicas for RMB2480 (approximate $406). To see the range of houses and hotel rooms available, go to Commune by the Great Wall.
Ready to live with bamboo? See our Remodeling 101 post: The Mystery of Bamboo Floors Revealed and Gardenista's Bamboo: The Re-Think. For more of our favorite lodgings the world over, peruse our Hotels & Lodgingposts, including Beautiful Ruin: The Waterhouse in Shanghai.