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Christian Schittich, Sleepover in China, China

Sleepover in China: Hotels as destinations

Detail: Übernachten in China/Sleepover in China presents singular accommodation built in China over recent years. Why does the typology of Chinese hotels in particular represent a new architecture?
Christian Schittich: China is changing, and domestic tourism is on the rise. New middle classes interested in culture and keen on travel are gaining an increasing liking for visiting places in their own country – in the process creating a new business sector in poorer regions in particular. Then there's a growing desire for individuality. Moreover, China's "new" generation of architects is characterised by individual approaches, sensitive treatment of material and space and responding to the respective context.  This creates interesting possibilities for putting ideas into practice.

Detail: In the introduction to the book you basically say that few other typologies than hotels are better suited for representing China's new architecture. Why is that the case?
CS: Just about every leading architect has to do with hotel building assignments, and therefore the book features numerous noted architects such as  Gong Dong, Neri & Hu and Archstudio. The tremendous variety of designs and concepts for new hotels results from the successful blend of traditional Chinese architecture and Western influences.  This is where the training that young Chinese architects have abroad makes itself felt. 

Detail: Present-day Chinese architecture is generally associated with colourful buildings, high-tech structures and ever larger, higher and increasingly bizarre designs. However, the architectural idiom you feature in the book is a completely different one. Can you explain why?
CS: For over 30 years I have been travelling regularly in China, and in more recent ones I've been struck by the growing interest in the country's own culture and old traditions.  Both architects and holders of political responsibility are increasingly seeing the need to preserve cultural heritage and assets – an important  basis for stepping up sustainable tourism and making holidays in one's own country more attractive.  Moreover city dwellers are feeling a growing urge for shorts stays in the country in order to get away from the constant hustle and bustle of the city. 

Detail: These days the relevance of social media is undeniable, and you refer to it too, as with the term "Instagramability". What influence does this phenomenon have on architecture?  
CS: Posting selfies in social media is far more important in China than it is here. This fosters a longing for special places and can sometimes lead to a hotel or other form of accommodation becoming the actual destination of a journey. With this desire in mind, architects see it as their task to offer individuality and provide answers in the search for places that satisfy such longing.  Thus the demand for photogenic, web-destined accommodation fosters the individuality of the projects. 

Detail: Did social media presence play a role in the projects you selected? 
CS: No, it didn't. Übernachten in China/Sleepover in China seeks to cover a broad spectrum of incomparable  construction projects within the new architectural trend. Good and above all highly individual architecture was the main focus, whether in an urban or rural context, regardless of the number of beds and irrespective of how well-known the respective architects are.

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