With the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, an understanding of local culture was all the more important for designers Remedios Studio, as their brief was to capture the cultural aesthetic of Kyoto and 1000 years of artistic tradition in a contemporary setting.
Kyoto was the ancient, imperial capital of Japan and is oft dubbed “the Florence of Japan”, due to its rich cultural heritage. Home to 17 Unesco World Heritage sites, Kyoto is deeply rooted in its ancient culture and Kyotians are wary of foreigners attempting to interpret their history. Throughout the urban resort, Remedios pays homage to the traditions of Kyoto and Japan, both structurally and decoratively. As guests transition through the lobby, a series of vistas are framed, creating a sense of theatre and discovery. Eventually, the vignettes lead to the reception area, furnished with low, rectilinear furniture for more of a resort feel, as well as the nearby haute pâtisserie Pierre Herme.
Inspiration for the spa came from karesansui dry-rock gardens, reflected in the use of natural materials throughout, looking as if they have been gradually weathered by nature. Due to the city’s stringent seismic codes, the rooms feature a deep beam at the window, leading to a projected faux balcony. Inspired by the concept of engawa (a Japanese verandah), Remedios has turned the beam into an architectural element, wrapping it in wood and lighting it from behind. This has created a type of Proscenium arch, which frames the vista outside and also creates a cocooned stage. A matchstick blind, emulating Japanese sudare screens also helps frame the view. Wood flooring and detailing is light in colour, as one would find in Japanese homes. Sliding doors lead to a classically inspired wet room and dressing area.
Custom-designed, cast-aluminium panels featuring a delicate cherry blossom bas-relief (Kyoto is famed for its cherry blossoms) lines the walls, while a Japanese-style slatted, hinoki wood floor releases a lemony cypress scent when wet and means guests need never stand in a pool of water while showering. An island houses a bar on one side and a double vanity area on the other, with custom-designed porcelain sinks, textured and glazed to resemble handmade pottery.