Modernity finds a home in Tadao Ando’s Shanmunzen
Kyoto has no shortage of quiet hotels within the city’s historic neighbourhoods, generally underscoring the city’s status as a capital of crafts, arts and design. When strolling down Kyoto’s historic Shinmunzen Street in the Gion Arts District, it’s easy to believe that time is passing by with a more relaxed walk here along the area’s beautifully preserved buildings. Shinmunzen It distinguishes itself from the many traditionally designed machiya houses and ryokan inns that line the gentle flow of the Shirakawa River. It’s not overtly so, as the hotel’s dark wood-fronted architecture and kwara tile roofline offer a distinct simplicity. But inside there is the architect’s signature Tadao Ando And interior designer Remy Tessieris sure to please design owners with its contrast.
This luxury boutique hotel takes its name from “Shinmunzen-dorior Street of Artists, Fine Arts and Antique Shops, is located on a picturesque section of Gion Shirakawa Street and Shinmunzen Street where weeping willows and cherry trees attract sakura lovers every spring to admire their blossoms against the backdrop of traditional merchants’ houses with narrow facades.
Despite its dated exterior, Shinmonzen is a contemporary creation inside and out. The passion project of Irish hotelier Paddy McKellen was able to convince Ando to redesign the ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, into a harmonious balance between yesterday and today, Japanese and European, austerity and comfort. Thus, Ando’s exterior design blends into the surrounding architectural landscape in compelling detail, with its contemporary nature only apparent upon closer inspection, and even more clearly noticeable upon entry.
Each of the hotel’s nine suites is unique, each featuring different materials endemic to Japan, and furnished with a mix of elements drawn from the local vernacular combined with contemporary European designs.
Tatami floors underfoot and spacious cypress bathtubs nod to traditional Japanese interiors, contrasted with expanses of marble counters and hand-woven European-style rugs.
Room sizes range from the 430-square-foot WASHI Suite with king-size bed to the 860-square-foot KINU Suite furnished with side-by-side double-sized futon beds, a double marble vanity, and a walk-in closet.
A touch of peace and tranquility permeates each of the suite’s interiors, all occupied by softly curved Toan Nguyen armchairs and softened by hand-woven rugs by Japanese textile maker Kawashima Silicone.
Farm-to-table French, American and Asian cuisine is served daily within the hotel’s restaurant, Jean Georges at the Shinmonzen, including a Japanese-style breakfast featuring Kyoto-sourced heirloom vegetables, and a vegetarian menu, along with 8 delicious dishes from both carnivores and vegetarians. . Meal list.
“Throughout our design process, the goal was to create a space that meets the desires of the modern traveler while respecting the traditions and heritage of Kyoto,” says Tadao Ando. “This hotel represents a delicate blend of past, present and future. I believe it will capture the essence of the Kyoto Protocol while still speaking to global sensibilities. I hope that everyone who visits will discover the new charm of the ancient city.”
where: 235 Nishino-cho, Shinmunzen-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605 0088
how much: Starting from $1,916 per night
Highlights: Tadao Ando’s light hand allows the architecture to quietly complement what the architect described as “the most beautiful body of water in all of Kyoto.” With each room allocated a private balcony, guests are invited to watch the flow of water and foot traffic in equal comfort.
Design drawing: The art collection at Shinmunzen includes ceramics by Takayuki Watanabe, and contemporary artworks by the likes of Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter and Louise Bourgeois, with rooms curated by interior designer Remy Tessier. Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design, Kyocera Art Museum and National Museum of Modern Art are a 19-minute walk away.
Book it: Shinmunzen
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