a partially underground rotunda made of concrete bricks with mountains in the distance

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.

a man walks toward stairs on an architectural building with a pond in front
a partially underground rotunda made of concrete bricks with mountains in the distance
water pours from a skylight in a stone and copper room
a seating area as part of a tasting room looking out to mountains in the distance
whiskey barrels in rows in front of a bar

a lightbulb tilted to the left on an orange and purple background

See Interior Design’s Best of Year Winners and Honorees

Explore must-see projects and products that took home high honors.

neri&hu design and research office: lyndon neri; rossana hu; nellie yang; utsav jain; siyu chen; feng wang; guo peng; josh murphy; fergus davis; alexandra heijink; vivian bao; yota takaira; rosie tseng; nicolas fardet; yin sheng; lili cheng; july huang; luna hong; haiou xin

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