Commune by the Great Wall Hotel
One of the most aesthetically dramatic properties in China, the Commune by the Great Wall has lodgings created by some of Asia’s best contemporary architects—set right alongside the most stupendous building project of the ancient world. A dozen different architects were invited to design their “dream” villas here in 2001, on a hillside right near the base of the Badaling section of the Great Wall; the results were 11 different stand-alone residences that are as wildly different as they are imaginative. Most incorporate swooping, angular structures and walls of floor-to-ceiling glass; some, like Gary Chang’s elongated, wooden Suitcase House, are elevated on struts, the better for seeing out over the wall and surrounding countryside. All have interiors decorated with varying degrees of minimalism: while Shigeru Ban’s Furniture House is a study in clean-lined white (molded fiberglass chairs, stark floor tiles), Kengo Kuma’s Bamboo Wall house has walls covered in fluffy down mats, and slatted bamboo shutters that let in stripes of afternoon light. Each villa—which guests book in its entirety—has a kitchen, expansive common areas, and a dedicated housekeeper. In 2006, the property added another 31 buildings with 236 more rooms and suites—all sleek and immaculate, though not as stunning as the original structures—and the opulent Anantara Spa. An outdoor swimming pool will be unveiled in late 2008.