This Female-Led Architecture Firm Is Turning Heads in China

In a country like China that’s currently undergoing rapid urbanization, hundreds of architecture firms rise to the call for new buildings. Of those hundreds, there are several that have caught our eye. One in particular is a female-led firm—X+Living, a Shanghai-based practice run by Li Xiang, who operates at the crossroads of architecture, interior design, and furniture design (the latter through her second company, Xiangcasa). We first took note of X+Living when it built the mesmerizing Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore, an M.C. Escher–like wonderland in June this year.

“I used a lot of abstract architecture in my projects, especially the retail stores, because it fits well with the concepts,” Li tells AD. “More and more designers are using such techniques to fulfill their ideas, and since the feedback from the consumers is quite positive, it encourages us to do more.”

X+Living is certainly doing more in that vein, completing three dazzling projects since the bookstore: two hotels and a tea store. The Zoo Park Hotel in Hangzhou is a bold, art-focused property with a theme of wildlife conservation; the New Century Magic Hotel in Huzhou features more fantastical, childlike designs, a style the firm is known for; and the Zhuyeqing Green Tea Flagship Store in Chengdu has an otherworldly, abstract interior.

“My goals are to bring surprise and happiness to boring daily life and make people be immersed with a whimsical and artistic world,” says Li, which she’s certainly done with this trio of new projects. See below to view all three of them.

When the owner of the hotel shared with Li the idea of an animal theme for the property, the architect knew she didn’t want to create something cute, but trite. “I transformed the hotel into an art exhibition about animal protection, due to the concern I’ve always had toward the endangered animals,” says Li. “This is my special way to call for public awareness and concern toward the situation.” Artworks and furniture installed throughout the property feature animals prominently.

The rooms in the Zoo Park Hotel are primarily monochromatic with a focus on graphic patterns.

Located in the Deqing Kaiyuan Senbo Resort Park, the New Century Magic Hotel was designed to appeal both to children and adults. “The inspiration behind this project is a common game we used to play as children, where you cut a small hole in the bottom of two paper cups and connect them with a cotton thread to create a phone,” says Li. “We used metal tubes to simulate the function of phones in the lobby, which engage both the parents and children in the joyful game.”

The hallways of the New Century Magic Hotel feature patterns that recall the geometry of Art Deco, albeit in a very contemporary manner.

While children and adults (who are children at heart) can play in the public spaces, the rooms are a place for serenity, evidenced by their minimalist design

For this project, Li was inspired by Mount Emei, a peak near Zhuyeqing’s green tea farms and production facilities. “We intended to present the landscape of high mountains shrouded in mist in order to provide an immersive experience,” she says.