The Grand Hotel – Taipei

 

Grand Hotel main building

Grand Hotel main building

The Grand Hotel in Taipei is an imposing classical Chinese building located at Yuan Hill in the Zhongshan district of Taipei. It was was built by Chiang Kai-shek, under the direction of his wife, to treat visiting foreign guests. The Grand Hotel was completed in 1973 and became an instant Taipei landmark.

Grand Hotel extravagance

Exploring the decoration of the Grand Hotel is a visual feast because it is such a wonderful example of classical Chinese “palace-style” design. The huge foyer and grand staircase are overwhelming at first sight.

Below are several decorative items that caught my eye.

Grand hotel Interior courtyard with lattice balustrade and corner brackets

Interior courtyard with lattice balustrade and corner brackets

Grand hotel Connecting corridor decoration

Connecting corridor decoration

Lattice used on a staircase

Lattice used on a staircase

Nice ice ray lattice divider in the foyer

Nice ice-ray lattice divider iin the foyer

No trip to Taipei would be complete without a visit to the Grand Hotel and having some coffee and cake in the smart café in the foyer area.

Lattice Screen Divider

Chinese lattice ice ray divider screen

Ice ray divider screen

This Chinese lattice screen makes a nice room divider at the entrance to a Taipei restaurant. The lattice screen uses the classic ice ray design which is a variant of traditional Chinese lattice as described by Daniel Sheets Dye in his book “A Grammar of Chinese Lattice”.

Chinese lattice windows

Although not used to the extent it was last century Chinese lattice screens can be found all over Taiwan and China. Its great fun spotting examples in buildings as you drive around the cities. I noticed several nice ice ray lattice windows in the windows of an administration building at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan as I was leaving.

Chinese Lattice In Xidi

A typical dwelling in Xidi

A typical dwelling in Xidi

Xidi is a very beautiful village located near Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province, China. The village is over 900 years old and its white walled, black roof houses nestle within over 40 ancient winding and narrow lanes which are paved with bluestone. It is full of centuries old carvings in both wood and stone and is a must see for those interested in ancient Chinese culture.

Lattice work in a Xidi house

Lattice work in a Xidi house

There are fine examples of original traditional lattice work and sublime wood carvings in many dwellings in Xidi. The picture above shows the carvings in a house several centuries old. Note the ice ray design detail in the left had door opening. The detail in the work is extraordinary.

Intricate wood carving

Intricate wood carving

The Ice Ray Design

Examples of ice ray designs

Examples of ice ray designs

One of the more intriguing design groups described by Daniel Sheets Dye in his definitive work “A Grammar of Chinese Lattice” (1937) is ice ray lattice. Unlike most lattice designs ice ray lattice has no horizontal or vertical line elements. This makes it most effective as a grille or screen where people don’t want to feel like they are in a cage which can happen with horizontal or vertical bars.

Origins of the ice ray design

To appreciate the designs in this division, one needs to see ice forming on quiet water on a cold night. Straight lines meet longer lines, making unique and beautiful patterns. The Chinese term this ice line, or lines formed by cracking ice; I have described it as the result of molecular strain in shrinking or breaking, but more recent observations and photographs seem to prove that it is a conventionalisation of ice-formation which has become traditional
(Dye, “A Grammar of Chinese Lattice” 1949 pp298).

Ice forming on a pond

Ice forming on a pond

In his 1977 paper, “Ice-ray : A note on the generation of Chinese lattice designs” Stiny did the first analytic exercise with shape grammars which he had invented with Gips in 1976. The grammar he laid out in this paper set the standards for all shape grammars that followed. Shape grammar is beyond the scope of this blog and the reader is encouraged to further research elsewhere if so inclined. I confine myself to the aesthetic aspect of the design and its application as decorative grilles and security screens.

Ice ray design on sedan chair in Jing Hai Hall, Xidi

Ice ray design on sedan chair in Jing Hai Hall, Xidi

Small screen using the ice ray design

Small screen using the ice ray design

Circular ice ray window in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou

Circular ice ray window in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou

The ice ray lattice design is readily adapted to contemporary decor and gives a refreshing relief from vertical bars when used as a security grille. Circular ice ray designs are also interesting and can make fine features on otherwise bland walls.