A random chance discovery in 2007 of some ruins of a castle built more than 100 years ago by a South African hiker has sparked the creation of a near 52-hectare new luxury resort in the mountains of China; labeled the most eco-friendly in the world.
South African born Grand Horsfield moved to China in 2005. A keen sportsman he was looking for somewhere to hike and mountain bike, and was drawn to the unspoilt landscapes and cool mountain air in the forests of Moganshan.
The area had been a popular retreat in the 1800’s for European missionaries and China’s wealthy, but had long since crumbled away back into the forest until Horsfield chanced upon some overgrown buildings that resembled Villa’s and swimming pools.
A greater discovery was to be made however with the uncovering of the ruins of what used to be No. 1 Moganshan – a castle that had been built in 1910 by a Scottish doctor called Duncan Main who used it as a summer retreat, which also provided medical assistance to the people of Moganshan.
In 1932 the castle was taken over by Zhang Jingjiang – director of the Jiangnan Motor Company, and changed it to a hotel to serve politicians, business men, and celebrities.
However, when war broke out in the country in 1937 Jingjiang left China, and the castle remained empty before eventually collapsing in 1960 where it became overgrown by vegetation, and forgotten about.
Convinced that a nature-inspired getaway would prove attractive, Horsfield founded the company the – naked Group – in 2007, with a focus on eco-friendly, luxury products, and together with his architect wife, Delphine Yip, set about creating a boutique hotel and resort.
Building and restoring structures in such a remote location came with its own set of challenges, but the result has been truly stunning.
The pinnacle of the project, the castle sits in its original location, while below, integrated into the landscape of the near-52 hectare resort is a series of terraces that accommodate activities, a restaurant, and an infinity swimming pool, and not to mention a huge 121 villas, rammed earth huts, with horse stables, tea plantations, and bamboo forest.
The four-storey castle bears all the hallmarks of its medieval past including drawbridge, turrets and dungeon suite, whilst the castle’s interior is elegant but understated, with grand balconies, generously sized, high-ceilinged rooms and a central staircase clad in a light beige marble.
Yip also custom designed most of the furnishings and fittings, including the castle’s cast-iron lights and the tall wooden chairs in the Grand Hall carved with the brand’s distinctive coat of arms.
There are five themes for the 10 suites in the castle; a King and Queen suite has the lavish interiors one would expect ion a castle, while the Dungeon has a dressing room inspired by an iron cage and a bed with a stone base decorated with iron chains.
The remaining themes are inspired by the history and legends of Moganshan.
Perhaps the biggest design challenge that was important to the couple, was to balance environmental sustainability and the couple’s desire to recreate the style of a castle.
Energy and water were key considerations, so the couple introduced an advanced, energy-efficient system of geothermal bore holes and solar energy panels to power air conditioning and provide hot water throughout the resort. This involved drilling 360 bore holes to a depth of 100 meters. The result is a low-maintenance, high-carbon-credit solution.
Other eco-friendly measures include a containerised waste water treatment system, DC cooling fans to conserve power, energy-efficient, pre-insulated pipes, and electric carts equipped with quick-charging, high-performance ultra-capacitors instead of traditional lead-acid batteries, to transport guests, materials and staff around the site.
Potable water is obtained from a nearby lake, while taps and showers are designed for low water usage, and the walls of the castle and villa are built of lightweight concrete blocks.
Take a look at more pictures below, and for further information please visit the website here.