The Chuan

Neri&Hu Design and Research Office

For over a thousand years Mount Emei has persisted as one of the most deeply spiritual places in China and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The revered ground upon which our site sits has a rich history itself – through the centuries, this land was once an impressive monastery, the site of several historic battles, and a stopping point along many pilgrimage and trade routes. While no built remnants of the past remain on site, its very emptiness is powerfully suggestive of all of its fabled memories. In this context, Pernod Ricard and Neri&Hu exceeded the challenge of designing a distillery and home for China’s first original whiskey brand; they conceptualized a hybrid identity bridging Scottish whiskey tradition within the aura of Mount Emei to produce a timeless architecture representative of a sustainable material and cultural heritage.

Conceived with a design competition in 2017, with construction completed in 2021, the project ambitiously incorporated site selection and planning, architectural and interior design, brand identity design (including naming, logo, and bottle) and injected deep cultural signification to an otherwise commercially-minded industry. Sensitivity to history, philosophy, and material culture created not only a great whisky but a brand that celebrates the Emei terroir and the Chinese culture around the Daoist concept of “duality”. The distillery adopts a comprehensive approach on sustainability with a vernacular design that prioritizes the preservation of local resources and environment. Throughout the project, the strong synergy and mutual trust built between Pernod Ricard and Neri&Hu have achieved great results, with the lead by Tracy Kwan (Vice President Marketing, Pernod Ricard Asia), Cecile Hitier (Associate Style Director, Pernod Ricard Asia) and Rossana Hu (Founding Partner of Neri&Hu Design and Research Office). Surrounded on three sides by a winding creek, and with the majestic Emei peak as a backdrop, the site exemplifies the Chinese notion of the duality of natural elements which make up the world we live in. Shan-shui literally means ‘mountain-water.’ While shan represents strength and permanence, shui represents fluidity and transformation; they are two opposing yet complementary forces. In the spirit of this philosophy, the position is to conceive a gesture whose very strength lies in its humbleness and simplicity, by its profound respect for nature. The architecture manifests this balanced duality in many ways, with the industrial buildings as a modern interpretation of vernacular Chinese architecture, and the visitor buildings as elemental geometries grounded in the terrain. Besides a deep appreciation for the site’s natural resources, the project is also an embodiment of the refined sense of artistry embedded in whisky-making and blending, which is in dialogue with traditional Chinese craftsmanship and knowledge of materials. Throughout the project, Pernod Ricard and Neri&Hu attempt to embody the Chinese concept of the dichotomy of two elements that coexist in opposition yet complement each other, and to strike a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape, between industry and visitor experience, between mountain and water.