China’s first ecotourism destination, Crosswaters Ecolodge, is located within the 260 km protected forest of Nankun Mountain Reserve in Guangdong Province. The reserve was established in 1984 to protect the subtropical forest. Within the reserve there are 5,000 local Keija people, who harvest bamboo from the reserve’s 30 square km bamboo forest.
“Longmen Mt. Nankun Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Co. Ltd., a company owned by Chinese Nationals, wanted to implement an innovative approach, holistic in nature, addressing many of the environmental and social problems that had continued to plague their country over the years. The client’s goal was to develop the first ecotourism destination in China and they selected, as a setting, the forests of Nankun Shan Mountain Reserve, Guangdong Province, South China.”
Intensive environmental, social and metaphysical analysis was conducted by the interdisciplinary team – Landscape Firm EDSA, Australian Environmental Architect Paul Pholeros, Bamboo Architect Simon Velez, and Feng-Shiu Master Architect Michael Chang. The landscape architecture, architecture and interior design of the 50-room lodge heavily relied on bamboo and is the largest project using bamboo commercially. Most project materials were organic, from the site, or recycled. The boardwalks are made from railroad ties and the clay roof tiles are from demolished buildings from a local village.
Incorporating the local people and their culture into the design process, Crosswaters Ecolodge has a ‘continuity of the vernacular’ style deeply rooted to the region, and gardens with rich Chinese history and native species.
From more research about the lodge as a tourist site, apparently service and operation hasn’t been doing the design justice. Plagued with consistent ‘renovations’ and poor service, the lodge doesn’t attract many tourists. Those who have ventured out recognize the unachieved potential and often feel duped with overpriced promises.
“It seems like the place opened with great promise but the owners are just nickel and diming and running a place that caters to large tour groups with no interest in individual travelers and providing a superior service which is a shame since the hotel could be so much more. “ – TripAdvisor
With all the “sustainable designing” put into a project if the product is executed poorly and can’t live up to its potential, in the end, is it really sustainable? Design for nothing? Not that I predict it closing down, but if service can’t keep up then the tourist will stop coming, they won’t make a profit, and then what? After spending countless hours crafting and molding the landscape, do we wipe our hands clean from a successful or unsuccessful outcome, or is there a way to be more vested in its success after design and construction are complete?