The Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts shares about the sophisticated design of the Group’s first property in Japan and future plans in the country.
13 March, 2023
Located in the centre of Kyoto, Garrya Nijo Castle Kyoto is one of two properties opened by Banyan Tree Group in Japan last year; the other being Dhawa Yura Kyoto (formerly the Kyoto Yura Hotel MGallery). As its name implies, Garrya Nijo Castle Kyoto is located right next to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of the Ieyasu Tokugawa – the first shogun of the Edo Period.
The hotel features architecture by Jun Mitsui & Associates, and interior design by Hashimoto Yukio Design Studio (HYDS). It was formerly the Kyoto Yura Hotel Nijo Jo Bettei MGallery hotel, and was converted by the Banyan Tree Group under a partnership with the Wealth Management Group.
The hotel’s arrival sequence of a low-ceiling driveway, black cobblestones, timber surfaces and a walkway lined with bamboo recalls Kyoto’s back alleys. The lobby is tucked away from the driveway and faces an internal courtyard filled with local flora and fauna. This was inspired by Nijo Castle, whose inner sanctums are protected by a layer of moats and trees.
The cosy feel of the lobby, adorned with 85 artworks and objects showcasing the images of Kyoto, Zen philosophy and the traditional tea ceremony, references the intimate shoin-zukuri style of residential architecture.
The opening of the property is part of the Group’s plans to double its portfolio to 100 in three years by adding 50 hotels to its existing number. Dharmali Kusumadi is the Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts who oversees the Group’s architectural projects, design requirements, technical advisory and business development functions. Here, he tells us more.
What is the design ethos of the Banyan Tree Group?
Banyan Tree Group’s core ethos is ‘Build for Good’, which encompasses positive experiences and impacts on the guests’ lifestyle. It is part of our sustainability , starting from the design process all the way to the construction stage. The concept and design of the properties’ architecture [involves] locally sourced materials whenever possible, efficiency and engagement with local communities where we are rooted in, and guest engagement activities that connect with the culture and nature.
Can you define the brand identity and target crowd of Garrya Nijo Castle Kyoto?
The Garrya brand was conceptualised to be modern, minimalist havens located in emerging destinations for sophisticated travellers seeking spaces to recharge. It addresses the demands of sophisticated travellers looking for authentic cultural experiences. Its central location boasts proximity to Nijo Castle, as well as Kyoto Gosho, the Imperial Palace, Shinsen-en Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Nishiki market and the geisha district of Gion.
Each of the 25 rooms and suites start at a generous 40 square metres, with an option of open balcony rooms. The interior décor celebrates Japanese heritage in a subtle manner, such as vermillion-accented lacquered furniture, textured walls and minimalist spaces.
What is the Group’s future plans for Japan?
We aim to open three more properties in Japan in the next five years. Banyan Tree Higashiyama Kyoto is set to open in Spring 2024 in the Higashiyama district. It will be the first and only hotel in Kyoto to have a Noh stage. Banyan Tree Ashinoko Hakone is slated to open in 2026 in an area adjacent to the picturesque Lake Ashino, and Cassia Hirafu will open in 2025 in Japan’s most popular ski resort destination.
Can you elaborate more on the design of Banyan Tree Higashiyama Kyoto?
Banyan Tree Higashiyama Kyoto is already in the construction stage. Kengo Kuma & Associates is the design architect, Hashimoto Yukio Design Studio (HYDS) is responsible for the guestroom interior design, and the former Wilson Associates (that has been amalgamated into Design Worldwide Partnership) is designing the public areas.
Its location makes the property especially interesting as it is secluded, yet in the city centre. It is in the Higashiyama area, next to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, right on the hill beside the bamboo forest. We preserved the site in its original footprint with a compact building design. We also kept the original old stone retaining wall and matured trees.
How about Cassia Hirafu Niseko? How is it different from Banyan Tree Higashiyama Kyoto?
Cassia Hirafu Niseko is designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, which specialises in integrating the natural landscape into architecture. It offers extended stays targeting nomad travellers, or travellers who travel with friends or family and that seek comfort and convenience in their hotels. The property features a generous living space and personal kitchen area that allows them to host friends or family in a place they can call a home away from home.
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