Bird's eye proposal for Garden and Roof Pavilion by the Temple of Heaven, OBRA Architects
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GARDEN BY THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN

TAJ Palace Hotel Garden and Roof Pavilion
Beijing, China
May 2011

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The Garden of the Temple of Heaven Hotel is conceived as a three-dimensional painting framed for view from the interior of each of the hotel rooms and also to be visited by hotel guests for a walk in the shade of ancient trees or quiet conversation seating by the flow pools teaming with gold fish.

The garden is transversed by pools that provide atmospheric refreshment and a subdued sound of running water to mask the metropolitan hum of the Beijing traffic. These pools are defined in form, each by a straight side and an organic side. The edge of the organic side is planted with willows and forsythia and other plants of similarly suspended branch structures that would dramatize the horizontal symmetries of water and sky reflected on the edges. Along the straight edge, walkways and stone benches sheltered against a retaining wall create paths and sheltered seating spots amongst the hundred-year-old cypresses and newly planted flower beds and evergreens.

This arrangement provides both the opportunity for intimate experience of the garden and privacy for the rooms. The garden walls provide screens that obstruct views to the interior of the rooms with views of the sloped garden. This arrangement can enhance the illusion of deep space in the garden, making it seem deeper than it actually is in the same way that increasingly smaller figures painted higher on a canvas can create an illusion of depth.

The proposed planting triangulates within the old existing cypresses, as anchoring points of the design. The entire field of the garden is organized as a relentless mosaic of different plants fields. Surrounding the trees, shade loving plants such as purple and red flowering Astilbe and green and blue “Elephant Ears” Colocasia are disposed. Between these and moving away from under the cypresses, fields of evergreens such as Buxus are arranged to provide color and body even during the winter.

These are intermixed with other fields of plants with more exuberant branch structure and color variation thru the year to give character through the seasons, in some cases Beijing Cotoneaster for its “messy hair” branch profile and its bright red fruit in the summer, in other cases Forsythia Suspensa for a similarly wild branch spectacle and for their insanely intense yellow flowerings during the spring.

Finally, linking these bushy fields together in-between the trees fields of annual and perennial flowers and grasses are proposed, including purple and yellow Iris Germanica, crimson Verbena Hybrida Voss, pink Hibiscus Syriacus and blood colored Sanguisorba Officinalis. These flowering fields provide varying character amongst the different parts of the garden to give the view from the different hotel rooms unique individuality and identity. Occupying the airspace amongst the cypress in the garden some younger trees are proposed to provide a little variety of color, size and form: Acer Gginnala and Acer Japonicum for their delicately layered orange and red fall foliage; one of the "Three Friends of the Cold": Prunus Mume, for their winter blossoms and their purple foliage in summer; and Magnolia Denudata for deep green foliage and ephemeral but unforgettable white and pink giant bell-shaped flowers.

Pavilion Design

The proposed light roof pavilion provides the guests with a lounge space to enjoy drinks and meals as they experience low horizon views of the Altar of Heaven Park and Beijing’s skyline. The pavilion is reached from the main lobby by a spiraling ramp that ascends from the Palace Hotel lobby. Outside, a planter provides flowering color while keeping the views from the pavilion away from reaching the guest rooms on the ground floor.

The fixed furniture, wooden bar and peripheral bench are built in Chinese redwood, the steel structure is painted satin black and the floor is of shining black terrazzo with crystal white marble gravel.