What’s New in Chengdu?

In the high-tech hub’s Tem­ple House, a 1,600-year-old monastery meets a mod­ern lux­ury ho­tel—and of course pan­das.

Forbes - - Forbes Life Travel - By Lau­rie Werner

The stark con­trast of old and new China is on view as soon as you en­ter The Tem­ple House, which opened in the Sichuan cap­i­tal of Chengdu in July. The wooden gate and 100-year-old bitieshi, the main her­itage build­ing framed on bam­boo and named for the schol­ars who tran­scribed de­crees from Qing dy­nasty em­per­ors, are the frst things you no­tice. Just be­yond that lies a boat-shaped gold wire re­cep­tion desk and glass tow­ers hous­ing a mod­ern ho­tel com­plex and ser­viced apart­ments—the third en­try in the Hong Kong-based Swire Ho­tels’ House Col­lec­tive. On one side of the build­ings are the gray, de­cay­ing apart­ment blocks of the city’s past, on the other is Si­noOcean Taikoo Li, a 1.2-mil­lion-square-foot re­tail com­plex ( jointly de­vel­oped by Swire) with 300 lux­ury bou­tiques, in­clud­ing Cartier, Hermès and Gucci. And next to it all sits 1,600-year-old Daci Tem­ple, one of the Four Em­i­nent Bud­dhist Monas­ter­ies along the Yangtze River Basin.

Swire chose this sa­cred site to fol­low its Up­per House ho­tel in Hong Kong and Op­po­site House in Bei­jing be­cause of the con­tin­u­ing growth in Chengdu it­self—cur­rently one of the largest ci­ties in China, with a pop­u­la­tion of 14 mil­lion. “Chengdu is a rapidly de­vel­op­ing econ­omy,” ex­plains Swire Ho­tels’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Brian Wil­liams. “And we’re see­ing more in­vest­ment in lo­cal in­fras­truc­ture and gov­ern­ment sup­port for in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies re­lo­cat­ing to the area.”

The de­sign of Tem­ple House re­calls the city’s past as in­ter­preted by the U.k.-based de­sign­ers Make Ar­chi­tects, with bold dashes of mod­ern el­e­ments. As Wil­liams ex­plains, the restoration of the bitieshi, the tea­house and the court­yard build­ings hous­ing the spa were un­der­taken in con­junc­tion with the lo­cal de­sign in­sti­tute to main­tain his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy. The grand stair­case that leads down to the court­yard from the

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