Kerry Hill Architects to design minimalist resort within a secret garden for Aman Kyoto

by Jane Kitchen | 07 Feb 2019

Luxury hotel operator Aman will open its third resort in Japan this November with the launch of Aman Kyoto, which will include a spa concept themed around the property’s natural spring water.

Situated in a hidden garden close to Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), the resort, with 24 bedrooms and two two-bedroom villas, draws on the country’s ryokan (traditional inn) and onsen (hot spring) concepts to provide an authentic yet contemporary Kyoto sanctuary surrounded by nature.

Aman Kyoto will be situated in a once-forgotten secret garden that provides a secluded retreat but is just moments from the centre of Kyoto and hidden at the foot of the symbolic Mountain of Hidari Daimonji in Kyoto’s north.

The natural spring water that flows near Aman Kyoto will be central to the philosophy at the resort’s Aman Spa, and is something of great rarity in the region.

Traditional onsen bathing facilities, using the water from a local spring, will deliver relaxation and healing, while a range of treatments tap into Japan’s plentiful natural apothecary – including Kyoto green tea, Tanba kuromame (black beans), local saké, and coldpressed tsubaki (camellia) oil.

The 80-acre Aman Kyoto site comprises 72 acres of permanent forest and eight acres of gardens lovingly tended over many decades by the previous owner of the site.

The garden is formed as a series of manicured platforms, impeccably kept through the years, within a hidden valley, enclosed on one side by a small stream, and on another by a wooded hill. An ethereal landscape of mature trees, which change colour through the year, transports the garden from one season to another.

Moss-covered stone pathways laid down by the creator of the garden, some edged in massive cut-stone borders, traverse the site. Graceful garden stairways and pathways lead guests to the upper platforms, and are bordered with colourful yama momiji maples and kitayama-sugi (Japanese cedar) planted in avenues.

The garden is cleverly designed to self-irrigate through the collection of rainwater via the site’s numerous hidden caves and water tunnels. Within the formal lawn in the peaceful centre of the site, large granite boulders, originally selected as sculptures by the former owner, define and hold court over the space.

The tranquillity and drama of this setting, magnified by the breeze in the trees, has inspired the architectural design of Aman Kyoto. The resort will be brought into being by Kerry Hill Architects, who designed both Aman Tokyo and Amanemu.

Consisting of a series of standalone pavilions, each with a distinct function, Aman Kyoto includes separate Arrival, Living, Dining and Spa Pavilions, four Guest Pavilions housing 24 guest rooms offering leafy seclusion with garden-or-stream views, and two separate Pavilions overlooking the forest canopy housing a pair of two-bedroom villas.

Each of Aman Kyoto’s 24 guest rooms and two villas is a contemporary reimagining of the traditional ryokan. Strikingly minimalist in their design, the rooms will have floor-to-ceiling windows framing the spectacular natural surroundings, tatami mats covering the floors, and tokonoma (alcoves where items for artistic appreciation are presented) providing a subtle focal point.

The interiors will be spacious and light-filled – crafted to foster peace, relaxation and contemplation.

The ofuro bathtubs in each guest room are made of hinoki cypress wood, native to central Japan. All furniture pieces, including traditional Japanese lanterns, have been custom-designed and are exclusive to Aman Kyoto. Carefully selected artefacts, whether vases, artworks or antiques, have been individually selected for each space, celebrating the refined aesthetic and creative values of Japan.

“Following on from the success of Aman Tokyo and Amanemu, Aman Kyoto will add another distinctive facet to our continued journey – and commitment - to Japan,” said Vladislav Doronin, chair and CEO of Aman. “Aman Kyoto will embody the true spirit of Aman, blending our profound respect for nature with adherence to simple, yet striking, principles of aesthetics and structure, masterfully brought to life by the late Kerry Hill and his team. We look forward to unveiling the many dimensions of Kyoto through the eyes of Aman and sharing the secrets of our enchanting garden.’

Part of its Japanese portfolio, Aman Kyoto is owned by the Chartered Group, which has been the driving force behind this project.

Eyal Agmoni, chair of the Chartered Group, said: “With the utmost care, craftsmanship and dedication, this garden sanctuary has been over two decades in the making so we can open its doors as an Aman. I am especially grateful to the late Kerry Hill and his team who created an architectural language that not only respects traditional Japanese design, but also celebrates, protects and brings back to life the unique gardens in which Aman Kyoto is housed. I have no doubt that this resort will be met with positive global interest, and will set a new hospitality standard in Japan.”

The Chartered Group will also introduce Residences at Aman Kyoto in 2020.

Aman also operates Aman Tokyo, a sleek sanctuary at the top of the Otemachi Tower, and Amanemu, a calm and serene hot-spring resort on Ise Shima’s Bay of Pearls.

Traditional onsens  Aman Kyoto  spa  Kerry Hill Architects 
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