This "quarry" hotel brings new purpose to a former industrial site while maximising the qualities of its unusual location

The hidden depths of the Earth have long enthralled the scientific community and teased popular imagination. What lies beneath the Earth’s crust was the subject of Jules Verne’s iconic novel, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and for one particular hotel in China, this subterranean adventure serves as one of many richly evocative sources of inspiration.

The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, a former quarry, is an engineering feat and a project that’s over a decade in the making. Designed by the London and Shanghai-based practice Jade + QA, the project was led by architect and founder Martin Jochman, who is proud that the final outcome is “virtually identical” to the initial sketch he had done in 2006. The firm worked closely with Chinese developer Shimao and local firm ECADI (East China Architectural Design & Research Institute) to realise the project.

We visited the property to celebrate the 200th hotel launched by the InterContinental group; a milestone made more remarkable by the unusual setting of this property in Songjiang, a suburban district southwest of Shanghai.

Here, we unpack the spectacular details that make this property so unique:

1. Its symbolic shape is inspired by the yin-yang symbol

According to Jochman, the lead architect of the project, the circular shape of the site itself reminded him of the yin-yang symbol, which in Chinese philosophy represents the concept of duality and the harmonious balance between contrasting elements.

This influenced the overarching design of the property: the convex and concave wings of the hotel represents one-half of the symbol while the lake and surrounding cliffs represent its other half. In another poetic touch, the undulating curves of the glass lift shaft were inspired by the natural waterfalls that trickle from the rocky cliffs of the quarry.

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2. Discover the adventurous story behind its interior design

“The interior design of the hotel is inspired by an adventure to the centre of the earth,” explains Raymond Yao, general manager of InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, as he takes us on a guided tour around the property. “The island counters at the lobby are artistic representations of cliffs, the hotel facilities are the ‘power stops’ and the rooms act like caves of respite, before your downward journey continues.” 

Inspired by the unique setting, the modern interior scheme features myriad allusions to the locale’s industrial roots as well as its natural surroundings. The rooms are fitted with a tactile array of materials, which include metal trimmings, wall panels in a burnished metal finish, as well as leather detailing on headboards and cupboards. A serene palette inspired by the colours of sedimentary rock enhances the restful feel of the rooms.

3. All the rooms are located underground

A major part of the hotel is located below ground level to maximise the micro-climate of the quarry and the visual impact of its subterranean depths. The main lobby areas are on the first and second storeys, while the rooms are on the basement floors, with views that look towards the lake and surrounding cliffs.

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4. Guests get to dine (or even sleep) next to the fishes

Located next to the lake, the Mr Fisher seafood restaurant at the hotel features a tropical aquarium that lines the length of the dining space. Additionally, the four duplex suites by the lake are its most outstanding and exclusive accommodation; each suite features a basement lounge with underwater views, while its upper floor is next to the viewing deck. 

“The art (of its design) was to find a theme and look that really expressed the intention of the hotel—to create a refuge for the soul away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai,” says Jochman. “A fantasy world underground, where you could fuse the ideas from the James Bond, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films into one concept.”

5. Its futuristic look is partially inspired by James Bond films

A helipad on the platform beside the lake (featured above) adds to the hotel’s Bond-esque allure, with select guests already opting to make a glamorous entrance by air.

Altogether, the hotel’s unique design and setting creates a luxurious, fantasy-like sanctuary away from the city bustle, while kindling a spirit of adventure in its visitors. In time to come, its facilities will include a rock climbing area built into the cliff, along with boating facilities for guests to explore the lake and the nearby flora and fauna.

“It’s got many layers of associations and meanings so hopefully it’ll never get too boring,” quips the architect.

Read the full story in the Singapore Tatler Homes April-May 2019 issue. 

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