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BLINK reimagines ancient lingnan culture and craftsmanship to create a masterpiece at Banyan Tree Dongguan Songshan Lake

BLINK DESIGN GROUP has summoned all of its renowned skills in the art of ‘placemaking’ to create contemporary magic from ancient Lingnan culture at the stunning new Banyan Tree Dongguan Songshan Lake hotel and spa, which was recently launched.

Situated in the Songshan Lake resort area of Dongguan, a sanctuary near Guangdong’s thriving Silicon Valley, the latest Banyan Tree property is surrounded by ancient villages, from which BLINK found rich inspiration. 

Situated between lush Lingnan greenery and the lake itself, the hotel is a series of serene oases recalling the poetry of a bygone era and offering panoramic mountain and lake views from 141 generous guestrooms and suites and 18 villas. The rooms are connected by corridors or floating bridges, accessible by water and land. Guests can travel between the public area and their private space by boat. The secluded villas have their own pier, private swimming pool and elegant gardens.

BLINK founder and creative partner Clint Nagata says a deep dive into local culture and a thorough exploration of the nearby ancient Lingnan village of Minnan yielded rich rewards in terms of master planning and designing the interiors.

“The long history, poetry and traditions of this venerable villages have faded from view during Dongguan’s rush to become first a factory to the world and more recently, China’s Silicon Valley,” Nagata says.

“It’s a privilege to play a part in celebrating and reviving that culture in a contemporary manner in one of the most exciting projects in China that we’ve been involved in.

“Our aim was to create an atmosphere in which guests can not only experience the service and international design of a top hotel during their stay but also immerse themselves in Lingnan culture, which really is exceptional and must be preserved.”

Nagata says the entire master plan of the hotel was inspired by Minnan village in terms of its flow and planning.

“Traditional Lingnan mansions display unique architectural features, intricate decorations, and beautiful gardens in traditional Lingnan courtyard style,” he says. “Lingnan even extends to the art of negative space and outlining in Chinese painting. These cultural inspirations are reinterpreted into the design.”

Elements of local textiles, Chinese medicine and the lush majesty of the dense forests themselves all found their way into the design process. 

A stroll through Minnan village reveals exquisite panels and carved screens particular to the vernacular, which BLINK has reinterpreted through a contemporary lens, taking motifs and design elements to create the sumptuous wall and ceiling panels and intricate lattice wooden screens that lend a sense of privacy and mystery to the hotel.

“These panels and screens tell their own stories, and that has become central to our design for Banyan Tree,” Nagata says. “Different styles of panels feature throughout, inspired by elements from ancient ancestral halls and residential buildings.

“That theme carries through the entire design, from the lobby and lobby bar, the guest rooms and suites and the restaurants.”

Traditional Lingnan mansions display unique architectural features, intricate decorations, and beautiful gardens in traditional Lingnan courtyard style. Lingnan extends to the art of negative space and outlining in Chinese painting. Cultural inspirations are reinterpreted into the design. 

Throughout the property, carpet designs are inspired by the pattern of woven “guancao”, the Lingnan region’s renowned traditional weaving process in which long strips of dyed natural fibres are interlaced, arranged, and crocheted to create beautiful patterns and shapes. Marble, stone and timber textures echo the unspoiled beauty of the forests. The fragrance of the eaglewood, or agarwood, transports guests to the local market Dongguan is famous for. Ceiling pattern details echo traditional architecture. 

The design elements of Guzhen panels and eaglewood continue from the public areas of the hotel to the guestrooms, suites and villas, using different design techniques and materials, from asymmetrical bed backboards to wooden veneers, rattan furniture pieces and lush textures creating a sensual, tactile experience for guests.

Guestrooms and suites are conceived as urban oases, rooted to the earth with natural textures and tones. Subtle light and shadow interplay suggests inner peace, with subtle integration of user-friendly tech. 

The renowned use of negative space in Lingnan art inspires a sense of serenity. Natural textures, clean lines and pure forms inform the bathrooms. 

In the villas, a unique architectural layout is based on the ancient mansions of Lingnan, with the added comforts of a private onsen and pool.

For Ming Yue, the hotel’s all-day Chinese and Western restaurant, BLINK’s design reveals beguiling hints of the lakeside vistas through serried ranks of geometric screens and ‘wok-ear’ walls, exquisite wood carvings and handwritten ‘thousand-foot’ lamps.

Jiangnan and Cantonese cuisine with a gorgeous dining hall and elegant private booths offering a 270-degree lake views.

Nagata says: “One famous feature of the ancient villages are the cloth mills, where the ‘Duntou’ blue textile craft showcases stunning dyeing and weaving traditions. The craftsmanship of drying and dyeing cloth and the intricate looms in the village workshops inspires this space.”

To create the Banyan Tree spa, BLINK imagined a market where eaglewood is sold in quaint shopfronts, as sunbeams bounce off the lake through majestic Manchurian windows, creating magical patterns on the floors and walls. 

The rich, resinous scent of eaglewood pervades as calming music from ‘singing bowls’ fills the air, adding olfactory and auditory layers to the century-old treatment experience, invigorating guests for the next journey.

The spa features eaglewood carvings on marble, detailed with water ripples, cloth-textured curved ceiling and grille details above windows, and a Royal Spa Room which explores ‘guan-fo’; medicated food health and traditional Chinese pharmacy treatments.