Botanica Meditation Centre
From a garden house to a semi-public space that heals the mind of the city people.

Many individuals wish to rest and unwind with nature if they work in a major city where they have to cope with hustle and bustle every day. Like the residents of Hefei, China, who must adapt and cooperate with the rhythms of work and life as a result of the tremendous development that has occurred in a short period of time.

The garden is located in a private villa in Hefei. The owner, who has an incomparable love for nature and plants, intends to turn a private garden to public to allow other people to visit and relax in a tranquil nature. The owner intends to utilize the 230 square meter garden as a spiritual healing spot that will help to slow down the daily routine. The project is taken care by Kulthida Songkittipakdee and Jenchieh Hung, two Thai & Chinese architects’ partners from HAS design and research whose duties include adjusting the mood of visitors and blurring the unnecessary boundaries to absorb the harmonized ambience with the context of the space.

01 Blur the boundaries to see only nature

Experience the garden atmosphere without seeing the system work
Architects told us that “the first challenge we received was to make this garden a place where people can relax, calm down, escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The remainder was left to us by the owner. We then proposed the idea of a self-sustaining garden that does not required human caregivers. So, we think of “Mist” or spray like mist or steam, which was inspired by the context around Hefei City that flanked with a large lake. In winter, there will be fog and steam around the lake. So, we wanted to incorporate the essence of the city into this park.”

Context and location of the project

Since the design of a garden, whether small or large, necessitates the installation of a water tank or irrigation system for the garden’s various plants. The architects’ important consideration was, ‘how could they make this 230 square meter garden solely have a garden ambiance without showing any system work?’

The architects conceal all system works underneath the structure of the garden’s main pavilion and extend the pipes from underground or the nook of the tree to ensure all system equipment integrates perfectly with plants and garden. The ensuing mist and steam appear natural and help blur other unwanted buildings, like our neighbor’s big house.

Diagram showing the idea of hiding a water tank underground
The wall is made from a dark grey aluminum panel, which will faded as the plants grow creating an illusion of a shadow from behind.

Natural but not boring
When creating a landscape design, the floor is the next feature that designers focus on. The architects aimed to create a pattern that appears natural yet is not dull, resulting in a design pattern that mimics a huge square of varying sizes. According to Por, this is how HAS works, where units are frequently utilized with certain designs.

If we look closely, we can see that the stones used in the garden are typical stones from the any Chinese market. The stones only went through different process from the typical one. The architects have the craftsmen carve the edge of the stone slab from square into a jagged edge along the edge of the stone. When randomly placed more than 100 pieces of those stone slabs, we will notice a variety of units. The grass on the ground will infiltrate between the cracked edge of the stone, blurring the original sharp edge. This is a concept where designers try to blur the boundaries of space to allow nature to infiltrate itself.

The picture shows the concept of unit design and floor pattern.
The basement floor is located on one side of the house, and the light from the skylight can be seen on the left. When looking at the overall picture, the floor pattern merges in with the rest of the space.

02 Indulge yourself in a small forest

The owner personally picks and chooses the plants. The designers simply proposed a preliminary concept and suggest avoiding trees with unique form to create an overall ambience that resembled a small forest that contains variety of plants, giving an ambiguous and unclear perception. The garden is complemented by Lighting Design which is intended to blur the boundaries of the light source. From the pictures, we can see the tube light intermingled with the foliage. “In addition to those tube lights, there are curved lights brightened the ground, together with others lighting like the Uplight that beam from the ground while concealing the light source. It’s like when we wander into the forest and notice that the light sparse over in some spots. The light is not directly splashed at the trees as some did for display purpose or as in the typical home garden.”

03 Alter your mood from hustle and bustle to relaxation and tranquility

In addition to the accentuated ambience of plants and landscape, there is also a pavilion in the park that is a destination for visitors. Por recalled that throughout the design process, the team researched a variety of forms before settling on the enclosed area. The visitors will notice the pavilion as a large stone and will have to be detoured to find the entrance, where the sense of discomfort will be eased once inside. As some corners edges of the stone box were chopped off, the person inside could not see any other elements outside except the sky. The inside ambience is also enhanced by the sound of running water from the faucet.

“This pavilion’s design was inspired by the accessibility experience. We think about what visitors will encounter when they enter the pavilion. It becomes one of the highlights that we want visitors to unwind, gradually alter the mood from viewing the garden to merely seeing the sky and only hearing the subtle sound of water in the background within the confined area.”

At the small steps, there are hidden sewers pipes in between each step, making them invisible to visitors. The water flows down and circulates in the water tanks hidden underground.

Although this place does not have a specific function, it is important to make people feel at ease with the being of nature through the momentary blurring of the boundaries of what was not necessary to see. Every aspect seamlessly blends in like a small forest that we might forget that this is a village garden, surrounded by rapidly developing cities.

Location: Hefei, China
Site area: 230 sq.m.
Gross built area: 1 sq.m.
Architecture Firm: HAS design and research
Design team: Jenchieh Hung, Kulthida Songkittipakdee, Tapanee Laddahom, Muze Ouyang, Marina Rina Miller
Landscape consultant: Weili Yang
Lighting design: Jenna Tsailin Liu
Lighting technology: Shanghai Rxin Lighting Technology Co., Ltd.
Metal technology: Prince Iron
Constructor: Hefei Botuo Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd.
Photo credit: Yu Bai

Rangsima Arunthanavut

Rangsima Arunthanavut