a different perspective
The idea of building a hotel around or inside a natural wonder — take the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island’s new Muraka undersea villa — is not a new one. There are plenty of examples of taking architectural inspiration from an otherworldly environment and integrating it into the design. But while the boutique-y caves of Greece, Italy, and Turkey masterfully mould guest rooms infused with luxurious amenities into natural hollows of rock in small numbers, there’s something seriously spectacular about multiplying that effort by, say, 15.
This is exactly what the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland has done. Opened in mid-November, the property is housed within a formerly abandoned quarry adjacent to Tianma Mountain in southwest Shanghai, a feat that took nearly a decade to develop. Plunging 88 metres below the Earth’s surface, Wonderland is the brand’s 200th international hotel — a milestone also marked by a partnership with contemporary artist Alexander Hall, aka Haut de Gamme, who has created a vibrant installation of hand-painted Champagne bottles commemorating each property, which will debut in the new hotel’s lobby.
Starkly contrasting the skyscraper-studded skyline of China’s largest city, the hotel’s hyper-low profile has just two above-ground stories, with the bulk of the hotel spread across 15 underground floors — including two that sit below the quarry’s waterline. The curvilinear structure ensures that each of the 336 guest rooms and suites are like front-row amphitheatre–style seats to the falling water and rugged cliffs that surround the property on all sides. In addition to boasting spectacular views, each room features a chic color palette of inky turquoise blue, red brick, and stone that nods to the environment outside. Though all are luxe, the bi-level underwater loft is decidedly the most awe-inspiring accommodation of the collection: the suite features a landing deck that hovers just above the water — complete with an outdoor terrace and enclosed living room — as well as bedrooms encased within an azure aquarium where guests can drift off sleep to schools of fishes swimming by. This, and other bottom-floor rooms, are also serviced by around-the-clock butlers who can arrange for nearly any form of pampering guests can dream up.
A free-form indoor swimming pool with a floor-to-ceiling view of the quarry’s waterfall is one of the property’s other highlights (it also is one of the best seats in the house for viewing the property’s nighttime laser and water screen shows). If swimming laps isn’t enough, active types can also kayak around the quarry or climb its rocky walls, while those preferring culinary adventures have a few options to choose from — including Mr. Fisher, one story below water level, and Cai Feng Lou Chinese Restaurant, which uses fresh Songjiang produce for Zhejiang and Guandong Province specialties. Nights are best topped off with scotch cocktails in the Quarry Bar. They, of course, use stone-shaped “quarry” ice balls — as if you’d forget for a minute where you are.