This Whisky Distillery Sits on a UNESCO World Heritage Site
2022 Best of Year Winner for Bar/Lounge
Mount Emei, one of the sacred Buddhist mountains of China, is home to the country’s oldest temple. The area was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996. So when the French beverage company Pernod Ricard tapped Shanghai-based Neri&Hu to design the Chuan Malt Whisky Distillery in a foothill there, Interior Design Hall of Fame members Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu and their colleagues had to figure out how to build on hallowed ground. Their response was not a single, hulking structure but rather a series of smaller buildings totaling nearly 80,000 square feet tucked respectfully into the Sichuan Province landscape.
The two buildings oriented to visitors are based on the concept of the circle and the square, which represent heaven and earth in Chinese philosophy. The cylindrical tasting building—a domed rotunda clad in concrete bricks—is partially submerged in the ground. Its upper portion is encircled by three concentric rings echoing the silhouette of Mount Emei, seen in the distance. Inside, tasting rooms filled with oak barrels ring the rotunda and water cascades from a skylight onto a bowl-shape copper vessel, creating a soothing sound.
The structure encompassing a restaurant and bar has a squared footprint and an open-air courtyard, where an angular reflecting pool fills with water after it’s cascaded down a wide staircase. The reception area’s conversation pit features custom upholstered benches for relaxing and taking in the view.
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