The village of Xiyaotou in the Zhangjiakou prefecture contains a network of traditional cave dwellings, which provided the inspiration for the interconnected vertical pods forming the Grotto Retreat Xiyaotou.
The hostel's pods are arranged according to a four-by-six-metre grid based on the length-to-width ratio of the original cave houses. Their seemingly irregular placement and organic forms complement the natural properties of the surroundings.
Each unit rises to a height of seven metres and features curving walls made from a double layer of grey brick.
The pods are topped with large skylights that enhance the verticality of the spaces by drawing the eye upwards, while also allowing sunlight to warm the interiors.
The double-layered brick walls help to retain warmth during the colder months, while the shape of the structures and the position of windows creates a chimney effect to help discharge heat in the summer.
A wooden bridge structure raised above the ground on pine columns weaves between the pods and connects the entrances at first-floor level.
The elevated walkway provides views across the landscape and, along with the void between the accommodation pods, can be used as a space for hosting workshops, markets or exhibitions.