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Photograph After Renovation
© Rex Chu

Hanguang Building:
Reinventing the Eco-Hotel in the Forest/Immerse in a New Life Experience in the Woods

Established in 1976, Hanguang Building is a reinforced concrete (RC) structure consisting of four above-ground floors and one underground floor. It comprises a total of 69 guest rooms, with a total floor area of 3413.5 square meters and a floor-to-floor height of 2.8 meters. Located at 12 Forest Street, Neihu Village, Lugu Township, Nantou County, at an altitude of approximately 1150 meters, Hanguang Building serves as one of the essential facilities within the Xitou Nature Education Area. It provides accommodation services for academic seminars, teaching internships, experimental research, and serves as an ideal destination for forest recreation.

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Aerial Photographs

The design and geographical location of Hanguang Building make it a focal point within the education park. Its main entrance on the east side is connected to a linking bridge surrounded by cedar trees, offering beautiful scenery and privacy. Meanwhile, the secondary entrance on the west side faces a spacious lawn, providing an expansive view. As one of the significant buildings in the education park, Hanguang Building enjoys a superior location adjacent to the restaurant building and park entrance. Simultaneously, it is separated from the main road, allowing residents to conveniently travel while enjoying the picturesque mountain views and lawn landscapes.

Although the floor plan of Hanguang Building may lack regularity, its layout is remarkably distinctive. With a longitudinal axis running from north to south, the building is centered around a grand hall, dividing it into the northern and southern zones, each surrounding a courtyard to ensure ample daylight in the corridors. Rooms on the eastern side overlook the cedar forest and the main garden area, while those on the western side face the vast lawn, embraced by scenic mountain views. There is a height difference of approximately half a floor level between the outdoor ground levels on the east and west sides, providing visitors with the experience of traversing a building nestled against the mountain, showcasing both its challenge and allure. With numerous rooms inside the building, it is worth noting that among the 18 rooms on a standard floor, ten are situated at the corners, offering both panoramic views and privacy.

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However, long-term usage and modifications have led to several issues with the building. Increased equipment needs have resulted in the addition of more fixtures on outdoor grounds, rooftops, and exterior walls, such as fences and pipelines. These additions not only raise concerns regarding noise and safety but also affect the aesthetic appeal of the facade. Additionally, prolonged exposure to damp environments has caused moss and water seepage problems on the exterior facade.

The courtyards, due to insufficient logistical space, have been repurposed into storage rooms, thereby compromising the transparency and brightness of the space. The lack of public facilities also contributes to a dim atmosphere within the building, making it challenging for residents to feel enveloped by the natural surroundings.

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The current overall renovation of the exterior facade and interior spaces of Hanguang Building presents a rare opportunity to modernize it, aligning with the contemporary emphasis on eco-tourism education and integrating the living experience into the natural environment. By reintroducing functionality, the aim is to enhance the space's versatility, allowing visitors to more easily enjoy the serenity of the mountains and the beauty of the scenery.

During the renovation process, particular attention is paid to the reorganization and enhancement of the facade, hardware, and equipment, aiming to improve the building's usability, maintainability, and energy efficiency, thereby achieving sustainability goals.

This renovation follows the principles of low technology and low impact, aiming to integrate outdoor landscapes with indoor spaces by improving the building's quality, seamlessly merging with the surrounding natural environment to create a hotel lifestyle scenery harmonized with the forest. This approach aims to offer visitors a fresh living experience. Improvement strategies and solutions include:

1. Improvement of Indoor Lighting and Landscape:

By integrating structural reinforcement with the preservation of existing structures, and through the rationalization of the architectural functional layout, connections between indoor and outdoor spaces are recreated, including the entrance, lobby, atrium, front and rear courtyards, and the expansive lawn in the rear garden: linking sunlight, air, greenery, and activities. The functionality of the courtyard on the ground floor is restored to serve as an indoor landscape space on both the north and south sides of the ground floor, integrating with natural light and communal areas, providing arriving individuals with an experience of tranquility amidst a transparent green environment, promoting relaxation.

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© Rex Chu

Taking full advantage of the favorable conditions provided by the existing building's courtyards, natural lighting is brought into the interior spaces, reducing the need for artificial illumination. The courtyard roof is designed with side-opening skylights, utilizing the chimney effect to expel hot air and thereby reducing the energy consumption of air conditioning systems.

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© Rex Chu

2. Integration of Equipment with Landscape and Facade:

Reorganizing equipment and pipelines, while modernizing and updating the equipment, aims to establish a positive relationship between the equipment area and the front of the lawn on the west side. By planning observation and rest platforms above the equipment, the pipelines on the facade are consolidated, enhancing the proactive relationship between space and environment, and fostering opportunities for closeness to nature.

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3. Enhancing Arrival Experience:

By combining the improved second-floor entrance and relaxation space facing the west lawn of Hanguang Building, there is a seamless connection with the lush greenery and light-filled vistas visible from the main entrance on the east side. The sunlight streaming through the second-floor windows and the courtyards on both the north and south sides provide arriving guests with a serene and bright atmosphere after crossing the cedar-surrounded linking bridge to reach the spacious lobby. Although the original wooden half-windows of the courtyard have been replaced with full-length glass windows during the building's renovation, the preserved Taiwan Red Cypress used nearly fifty years ago is repurposed, pieced together on the pillars of the lobby, offering a recycled and unexpected infusion of the room with the aroma of cypress wood.

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Through this comprehensive renovation, we aim to attract more young people to experience and enjoy the natural beauty here. In the past, due to outdated facilities and a lack of appeal, the interest of young people in this place has gradually declined. This renovation not only involves updating hardware equipment but also includes software enhancements in service and modern facilities to meet the needs and expectations of the younger generation. We hope that through these changes, more young people will rediscover the charm of this place and actively engage in and enjoy the natural environment.

The focal point of the lobby design lies in preserving the aged Taiwan Red Cypress from the original building and adorning it on the structural pillars at the center of the architecture through cutting and rejoining techniques. This not only retains historical significance but also embodies the concept of sustainable development. Such a design not only honors historical culture but also showcases the spirit of modern environmentalism, imparting a sense of both historical weight and contemporary eco-consciousness to the entire space.

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© Rex Chu

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4. Adding Recreational Amenities to Enhance Functionality and Flow:

A coffee shop located on the northwest side of the ground floor facing the lawn, positioned alongside the landscaped courtyard, provides guests with a relaxing environment for conversation and interaction. It also seamlessly integrates with the second-floor relaxation platform and the pathway adjacent to the lawn, offering safe guidance during the afternoon and evening, allowing guests to comfortably enjoy the outdoor natural environment.

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5. Enhancing Room Experience:

By combining adjustments in the interior layout of standard rooms with updates to the exterior facade while maximizing the retention of existing windows, improvements are made not only to provide better insulation, moisture resistance, and soundproofing but also to integrate the building more modestly into the forest in terms of details, colors, facade shadows, and maintenance. This allows for comfortable window-side seating areas indoors to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Furthermore, by fully understanding the original form and structural logic of Hanguang Building and combining it with the planning of residual space under the existing sloped roof, skylights are incorporated to gaze at the starry sky. This truly integrates living in the forest with the natural environment, providing an ambiance and unique sense of place that people long for. The designers aim to create a dreamlike secret base for children—the "attic." At night, children can gaze at the stars through the skylights, just like in a fairy tale. It is hoped that every visitor can find their own beautiful moments and romantic memories here.

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During the day, visitors can stroll through the garden and appreciate the natural beauty; at night, they can enjoy a comfortable resting space in their rooms. The rooms are furnished with a large amount of materials in woody tones, creating a visually relaxing and warm ambiance. The warm, soft lighting enhances guests' relaxation experience. Upon waking in the morning, guests can admire the outdoor scenery through the large windows and begin a new day happily amidst the chirping of cicadas and birds.

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© Rex Chu

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6. Modest and Sustainable Facade Renovation:

The main facade retains the original window frames, colors, and divisions, undergoing repainting and spraying to minimize the construction carbon footprint. Environmentally friendly materials suitable for the local humid climate are also used in the facade materials. The facade maximizes the reuse of existing windows, replacing only the portions damaged by moisture, thereby improving detail and quality. Combined with updated entrance canopies and minimalist handrails on linking bridges, the facade presents a humble and understated image of forest lodging.

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© Rex Chu

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Renewable Vision

As a project that focuses on the overall improvement of the building and its surrounding landscape, Hanguang Building plays a crucial role in enhancing the overall image and service capabilities of the Xitou Nature Education Center. Integrated with the renovated Yunshan Building, it links ecological education and tourism with forest living experiences, services, and quality. Under the emphasis on brand values ​​of circular economy and sustainability, the integration of spatial design with operational management once again showcases the charming allure of this renowned ecotourism destination, attracting more people to explore.

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Aerial Photographs

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Project Name: Hanguang Building, Howard Resort Xitou
Owner: Fu Shan International Hotel Management Consulting Co., Ltd. under Howard Hotel Group
Location: Nantou, Taiwan
Project Type: Architectural and Interior Renovation
Usage: Hotel
Design Consultancy: Voice Architecture Lab (VAL)
Lead Designer: Yu-Chieh Chiang
Design Team: Frank Chiang, Tessa Wang, Shan Lou, Bin Yan, Tim Wu, Yuju Wang
Interior Design: OD Studio
Structural Engineering:
Plumbing and Electrical:
Construction:
Photography After Renovation: Rex Chu

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