Three-day-weekend at the Commune
Inspired by its majestic natural setting and the pertinacious engineering of the Great Wall itself, the Commune by the Great Wall is one of China’s most successful and distinctive architectural projects. The collection of 11 modern villas and a clubhouse (known as Walnut Valley) and the 31 villas (Rock Valley) were each designed by one of 12 prominent Asian architects. The structures convey a palpable sense of place and integrates seamlessly with its environment. Combining scenic drama with luxury and a chance to bask in an ambiance of architectural innovation, is the perfect weekend retreat. For those of us who think about paying for things like food and rent, however, a daytrip to tour the project – which is in effect a museum of modern architecture – is more feasible (RMB 120).
With names ranging from the evocative (Cantilever House) to the redundant (Furniture House), the 11 villas of the Commune are distinctive showcases of each designer, and aspire to harmony, imagination and dynamism. The structures are composed of diverse materials such as wood, glass, steel, and even bamboo as well as the same luminous native stones that were used to construct the Great Wall. The shapes and poses of the houses – agile, angular and obtuse – create distinctive personalities and moods, and visitors will need a serious talisman to avoid being seduced by the geometric mojo on display.
Marketed to an elite clientele, the Commune by the Great Wall sells a boutique experience that attracts high rollers and celebrities. Available for a cool RMB 10,000 (plus 15 percent) and up per night, each villa is equipped with four to six bedrooms, its own butler and servants, as well a range of amenities like saunas and electronic devices. A standard room is RMB 2,500 per night. The clubhouse provides all the prerequisites for lavish events, such as a restaurant, gallery, and ballroom as well as a private theater and swimming pool.
There are special trails to the Great Wall from the Commune, but an appreciation of modern architecture and luxury are the primary sensibilities that the Commune aims to stimulate.
The best part for families? Drop the kids off at the Kids Club at the Commune while parents go hiking, have a massage at the on-site spa, or have a drink on the outdoor terrace against the mountainous background. The Kids’ Club offers supervised kids’ cooking classes, clothes to play dress-up, a coloring and reading corner, as well as an outdoor kiddie pool. Moms can get manicures poolside while their little ones take a dip.
For summer, the Commune offers a barbeque by the pool deal for families for RMB 328 every Saturday from 6.30pm-8.30pm and Sunday from 11am-2pm (also includes two-hour free-flow from the bar). You’ll begin to wonder if the boutique hotel wasn’t created to please the parents and kids.
Getting there: 长城脚下的公社 (8118 1888) www.communebythegreatwall.com
Bus: Take one of the many tourist buses to Badaling, then hire a minibus or cab to the Shuiguan section of the wall, and keep your eyes peeled for contemporary architecture.
Car: Take the Badaling Expressway to the Shuiguan exit. Drive 2km and you will see the gate to the “commune.”Alternatively, make arrangements with the Commune by the Great Wall for pick-up and drop-off.