It’s the island paradise in southern China referred to by people across the country as “the Hawaii of China”
But it isn’t Hainan‘s natural beauty that’s catching the eye of visitors to the island’s major cities of Sanya and Haikou in recent years.
Spectacular new hotels and entertainment complexes are springing up everywhere.
“Design has become a really key and important feature of new projects entering the market,” architect Scott Myklebust, whose firm M CO Design has been creating buildings for Hainan since 2005, tells CNN.
“It’s such a competitive market, there are so many hotels that are being developed and built — finding something that differentiates you from all the others is key.”
If you drive along Sanya‘s enormous, sandy bay you’ll see the huge, curved structures of Phoenix Island towering above the artificial island built especially for them.
Ma Yansong, the founder and principal partner at Mad architects, told journalists in 2010 the design for Phoenix Island was iconic, designed to help sell Sanya “like a business card.”
“It is an island in the sea. Architecture on the island should look like it grew out of the sea. They should be curvy, just like coral or sea star. It feels like they are a group when they are pieced together,” he said, according to Hainan Daily.
Entering the city from the east though, you could drive past the half a dozen enormous, flat, tree-like buildings of the Beauty Crown Grand-Tree Hotel, which opened in 2016 in Sanya’s city center.
Further north, flying into Haikou, you might see the beginnings of an enormous ying-yang symbol, which developers say will be a massive entertainment complex known as the Nanhai Pearl.
And that’s just the start. Many more eye-catching structures are being planned for the island.
“The market has been an arms race to develop the next most interesting or extreme project,” says Myklebust.
Myklebust isn’t just a casual observer in Hainan’s architectural “arms race.”
Spread over an intimidating 440,000 square meters on Lingshui Bay near Sanya is M CO Design’s sprawling Aloha hotel and entertainment complex.
Inspired by the famous Waikiki waterfront in Hawaii — a fitting design for the “Hawaii of China” — the resort will feature thousands of hotel rooms, serviced apartments and villas for all ranges of guests.
“If you look at the hotels along Waikiki they’re right up against the water, and then at the back, along the road, is basically a commercial and retail district … It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever built,” says Myklebust.
Already in its third stage of development, the project is likely to be completed around 2019, adds the architect.