With a name like Opposite House, you wouldn't expect the ordinary.
The 98-room hotel, which opened in Beijing last year in the Sanlitun neighborhood, fits the image of a hip urban inn fancied by young adults and by monied travelers who are looking for contemporary design and style. Service is casual, yet quick and thorough.
From the outdoors to your room, The Opposite House challenges expectation.
But once you enter The Opposite House, from the shadows come a few young hotel employees, dressed in black and ready to check you in, welcome you back, show you the lobby's art collection -- currently Feng Shu's post period insect series, above -- or guide you to the inobtrusive elevators, where they will push a button for your floor.
Which is dark.
The glass elevator grows darker as it rises. My room is near the end of a hallway that is as empty of light as I have seen in a hotel, and I move tentatively, without help from a wall lamp so dull I am reminded of entering an old movie theater where you are in danger of tripping over bodies once the film begins.
I decide to memorize the number of steps and turns, so next time I need not feel my way from door to door that look like every other door, except for the nearly hidden number that indicates my room.
Which is light.
Downstairs, the hotel draws a night crowd to its lounge and two fine restaurants, quiet Bei, with Asian cuisine and a bar for sushi, and busy Sureño, with Mediterranean fare produced by an Italian chef who trained in France.
The Opposite House is the work of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. It is his first hotel, and it is the first in a series of small urban lodgings under plan and construction in mainland China and the United Kingdom by Swire Hotels.
Next is the 117-room Upper House, set to open in October 2009 in Pacific Place, Hong Kong, followed by a 90-room hotel at TaiKoo Hui in Guangzhou and a 345-room business hotel called EAST in Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong, in 2010.
For rates, which start at about $700 a night, visit The Opposite House. Through through August 31, 2009, with two consecutive nights you get a third night free, as well as breakfast for two on weekends, access to the workout room and pool, a guided cultural walk of Beijing on Saturdays, complimentary mini-bar and Internet access.
The art of Feng Shu on display in the hotel's atrium is from his Post Period Insect series. The exhibit will remain until September 27, 2009.