Due to the unique “terroir” with high-quality water, minerality, and nature, the site of The Chuan Malt Distillery is chosen to be the first whisky production base in China by Pernod Ricard. Inspired by the rich natural elements on site, the landscape architect and architect work closely to create a project that blends in the background and shapes poetic and inspirational experiences, signifying the concept of harmony, appreciation, and cohabitation with nature.
Surrounded by Mount Emei, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Chuan Malt Distillery covers an area of 13-hectare rural land in Sichuan, China. As the first whisky production center locally, the distillery is designed to be a new world-class destination for whisky, art, and culture. The previously open cultivated land hidden in the wilderness stands out from more than a hundred other places during the site selection stage, owing to its strong mineral linkage to the mountain, high-quality water resources for whisky-making, and richness of nature. The ideal combination of minerality, water, and surrounding environment, shapes the perfect “terroir” for whisky-making.
Inspired by the site, the landscape architect team worked with existing background and designed a poetic journey allowing visitors to discover the beauty of mountain, encounter the joy of water, and explore the peacefulness of natural surroundings. The perception of nature is recalled and senses are revealed through the moments designed. The project has also exerted environmentally friendly approaches since the design stage to ensure long-term sustainable development and healthy ecosystem growth.
Connecting, amplifying and reflecting on nature are the three main landscape design strategies of the project. Visual guidance with continuous and blending landscape contributes to the project’s close connection with surrounding greenery. Artful expression in materiality, craftsmanship, and multi-sensory stimulations are applied through the journey to evoke visitors’ appreciation of nature.
The perception of nature is delivered with layering and sequences gently arranged through the site: From the entrance to the iconic dome, the linear waterscape leads visitors to encounter spectacular views of the meadow, the landmark architecture and the mountain behind. In the middle of the forest, where the restaurant is placed, the open water courtyard reveals the Mount Emei surprisingly with splashes of water on the steps. At the bottom of the valley, the forest walk meandering in the woods guides to a peaceful platform surrounded by the creek and wildflowers. Place-making within the existing environment provides an inspiring journey to remind visitors their relationships with nature, and its ecological and emotional values.
Landscape becomes not only experiences but rather an educational medium raising awareness of nature protection.
Series of rational approaches are implemented accordingly with a central goal of achieving minimal ecological disruption. Human intervention is carefully merged in the existing landscape through sophisticated strategies: The surrounding forest and groundcovers of the site are under rigorous protection during the construction. The boulders found during the foundation excavation are documented, analyzed, and reused back to the project. Sensitive and recyclable construction is integrated to minimize the impact of the local ecological community while providing opportunities to curate the landscape.
Studies of ground, water, nature and art make up the four critical aspects in the building of a comprehensive design.
A MATERIAL STUDY
REFLECTION ON MINERALITY:
Materials are studied to lay out a series of reflection on minerality from texture, color, to finish. The interpretation of minerality from stone, gravel, to aggregate concrete offers visitors a new channel of natural perception.
Coherent materials are used both in landscapes and buildings. Strong presence of minerality bridges the interior and exterior seamlessly.
UNDER AND ABOVE THE GROUND:
As a representation of the idea of sustainability and minimal disturbance, the stones recycled from the excavation are reused to build the boulder garden.
A WATER EXPLORATION
EXPRESSIONS AND SENSES OF WATER:
Diverse expressions of water on site functions as guiding system, rhetoric interpretation of environment and element to evoke reflection.
REFLECTING, RESONATING AND HEALING:
A series of designed waterscapes lead visitors to walk through the site and immerse themselves in the nature, and finally guide them to the bottom of the valley surrounded by a creek blended in greenness, where emotions and thoughts are allowed to breathe.
MAXIMIZATION OF THE SELF-IRRIGATION SYSTEM:
The maximization of native plant preservation reduces the need of manual watering, which allows for a healthier irrigation system.
A NATURE REFLECTION
Environmental protection and restoration are designated as the project’s major policy and implemented at the beginning, aiming for wildlife prosperity and biodiversity increasement.
Sensitive construction is consistently applied during the construction stage. With the woodland path carefully planned to avoid root systems damages and native species re-planted on disturbed areas, negative effects to the environment has been lowered to minimum.
SELF OPERATED FOOD SYSTEM:
The organic farm reserved for the future food supply to the restaurant is not only a showcase of healthy and ecological food system, but also a social common ground for local farmers and communities.
AN ART LINKAGE
ART AS A MEDIUM TO LINK TO THE SITE’S HISTORY:
Scattering on site are the 17 sculptural art pieces inspired by a boulder found by the river where the journey ends, yet the stone story begins.
Client: Pernod Ricard Group
Landscape design: YIYU Design
Architecture offices involved in the design : Neri&Hu Design and Research Office
Project location: Emeishan, Sichuan Province, China
Design year: 2018
Year Built: 2021