PUBLISHED April 2nd, 2021 06:00 am | UPDATED April 10th, 2021 03:29 pm
A mountainous province in southwest China, Yunnan is no stranger to otherworldly landscapes – snowy peaks, plunging gorges, and cascading rice terraces. Even so, the strange new topography that’s sprouted up in its quiet city of Mile refuses to be overlooked. Housed in a cavernous, undulating cluster of domes, Hong Kong studio Cheng Chung Design’s (CCD) latest project is a restaurant that’s 50% cloud, 100% dreamy.
Dubbed 50% Cloud Artists Lounge, this restaurant like no other makes its home within a startling art installation by Kunming-based sculptor Luo Xu: a series of immense domed brick buildings. Locally sourced red brick was used to blend the complexes into the red soil around them – with not a single steel bar or nail involved. Curving and rising into the sky, the whole thing is crafted to evoke a whimsical cloud – apt, since Yunnan literally translates as ‘south of the clouds’.
(You’d be pardoned for other images springing to mind, though – a giant’s bottle hoard, clay vessels unearthed from an archaeological dig, a medieval castle built by termites…)
Curved and solidly built without windows, it’s a façade that makes an unusual canvas for a restaurant. For the CCD design folks, though, it’s not the first challenge of its kind, with comparable projects like the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland – a hotel built in an abandoned quarry – under their belts. As with the InterContinental project, the team sought to enhance a sense of harmony between the space and its natural surroundings.
Wind your way up the stairs leading to the entranceway – wide, sinuous, and flanked by lush turf – and the steppes of Yunnan’s famed rice paddies might come to mind. Inside, the restaurant’s interior follows and amplifies the organic curves of the exterior structure. Archways take centre stage; anchoring the public dining space is a perfectly circular bar, from which brick arches spray upward and overhead to form a soaring, domed ceiling. It almost resembles a fantastical fountain.
Following the teachings of architectural pioneer Le Corbusier, light is the guiding principle that shapes the interiors – natural light, in this case. To open the cavernous space to daylight, rounded skylights were carved high into the roofs. As the sunlight changes throughout the day, natural patterns of light and cloud shadow shift on the red brick, spotlighting different elements of the restaurant with a theatrical touch.
Besides a smaller space reserved for private guests, the spacious dining room can seat 52. Matching the rustic look of the raw brick, the furnishings stay true to simple, clean lines. Round booths loosely encircle the bar, with banquette seats upholstered in a calm palette of blue, grey, and taupe. Small trees spread their branches over the tables, while pendant lamps woven of rattan hover like upturned baskets.
Given that the whole building is itself a whimsical art installation, it’s no surprise that original artworks pepper the space, each like something out of a surreal dream. Beside the bar, a woven metallic sculpture of a human head gazes enigmatically from its pedestal, intended to symbolize the wisdom of the local people. Not far off perches an amorphous, cloud-like sculpture, meant as a nod to the fluid possibilities of this space. There’s also a pixelated sculpture inspired by Mile City’s iconic, five-meter-tall Buddha Hand.
50% Cloud is located at Mile City, Yunnan Province, China.
All images courtesy of Cheng Chung Design