Alila Yangshuo Hotel takes over a 1960s former sugar mill complex in China’s mountainous Yangshuo region.
Designed by Dong Gong of Vector Architects, with interiors by award-winning Ju Bin of Horizontal Space Design, the vision for Alila Yangshuo is to integrate the new with the old, paying homage to the unique history of these heritage buildings.
London’s Bankside Power Station stood disused from 1981 until 2000, when it opened to the public as The Tate Modern. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron approached the conversion with a relatively light hand, creating a contemporary public space without diminishing the building’s historical presence. The impressive cultural icon has since become the most visited museum of modern art in the world, revitalizing its formerly sequestered, industrial neighborhood.
Herzog & de Meuron chose to enhance the urban character of the building without detracting significantly from its form, allowing it to remain an experiential and visual piece in itself. The most apparent exterior alteration is the light beam set atop its roof, a horizontal contrast to the towering chimney. The light beam’s minimal geometry and translucent glass clearly differentiate it from the dark masonry and detailed brickwork of the original facade.
The La Aurora textile factory was one of San Miguel de Allende’s most important industrial operations from its opening in 1902 to its closure in 1991. In 2004, it was reinaugurated in its current form as something of an art shopping mall. This iteration of La Aurora was spearheaded by Francisco Garay and a number of San Miguel’s North American migrant artists.
Among the most impressive industrial apparatuses you can still find on La Aurora’s grounds are looms, engines, and controls. Perhaps the most striking of these is the pair of massive green Zinser looms. Specifically designed for worsted wool production, these machines, also known as ring spinners, occupy about half the floorspace of one of the galleries and are used as something of a storage area for paintings.
A hallway features a metal behemoth of an engine, built by the Lang Bridge company of Accrington, England. One of the galleries has an industrial boiler in its storage room. The green of the Zinser looms reappears in one of the former factory’s control areas, located below floor ground level and with tiles in this shade. Bright red pipes and metal tubes flow along the white walls, tracing the path that electrical power followed and continues to follow to light up the space.
From mill to museum While run profitably until the 1960s, the group of mills were nationalised by the National Textile Corporation (NTC) in 1974, and over the past decade wound down. In a plan first proposed in 2009 — when NTC gave the India United Mills 2-3 to the city as a reserved public space — the Municipal Corporation will open the 15-acre compound to the public in 2019, a century and a half after its launch as one of the city’s first mills.
The museum is planned with exhibits on the history and future of textiles in Mumbai, Maharashtra and India, from handlooms to mills to modern powerlooms. Sadly, NTC still has no clear plans for its 12 remaining mill compounds in space-starved Mumbai.
Dr Shekhar Krishnan is a historian and social scientist who works with the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation Estates Department. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @bombayologist