Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley came up with a radical idea when he was asked to design luxury hotels that also featured a zoo: that instead of caging the animals, he would cage the humans and let the wildlife roam around outside – see a rendering, above. WorldWild outpost in Guangdong, a partnership with Hilton, is scheduled for 2022 opening: the land is Government owned, and the developer is Wuchuan City Long Men Forest & Wild Animal Park Co Ltd. There will be a total of six hotels with, in all, 2,200 bedrooms.
When Bensley was approached by the developer, he recalls, he was naturally intrigued by the invitation ‘ to design a zoo with some 5000+ hotel rooms on a chunk of land bigger than Central Park, I was naturally intrigued. After visiting as many zoos and animal parks as I could in China, I went back to the developer with the idea to dedicate 95% of his land for animals to run free, and 5% of the land for people to observe animals – but stay confined to that 5%, in “jails” for people – in other words, hotels, which in this case will involve Conrad and Hilton.
‘My dream is that the mistreated animals of over populated zoos in China could run free here. Of the 60 000 vertebrate worldwide, we are reassigning non-predator animals from less fortunate Chinese zoos to create an ecosystem where they can all thrive. I am planning a wildlife reserve without cages or predators, as that simplifies the equations significantly. Instead of fences we will use natural barriers to separate species which might not get along: barriers such as rivers, mountains, forests or hahas. We are soon starting construction of this wildlife park and I want to set an example that gives animals the respect they deserve.’
The complex will sit on a site where the design team will reinstate wetlands to encourage biodiversity, and the animals will be released into the 2,000-hectare plot to roam freely. Animals will have preference on site, as they are allocated 95% of the land, while humans will reside in 5% of the grounds in the hotel.
The hotels which form part of the WorldWild project will have a heavy focus on sustainability in their design.Eco-friendly initiatives such as prioritising natural light and ventilation, using as much greenery as possible on terraces, roofs and on the ground, growing vegetables and fruit on site, cutting down on plastic use and equipping rooms with sustainable alternatives like bamboo toothbrushes are just some of the elements Bensley wants to focus on.
The fact that Bill Bensley is son of a gardener perhaps inspires his use, here, lush foliage, timber-decked terraces and pool areas, wooden construction and references of vernacular building types and architecture all appear in his sketches. But then Bensley landscaping is already shown to perfect at Capella Sanya and at St Regis Bangkok.