ASYLUM and LOVE | The Johnnie Walker House Beijing
Following the success of the award-winning Johnnie Walker House in Shanghai, creative firms Asylum and LOVE once again teamed up to design the world’s largest ultra premium whisky embassy. Launched by Diageo as the largest, most luxurious Johnnie Walker House, the House is located in Beijing and imbued with whisky knowledge and historical elements throughout the sophisticated spatial design. Conceived with the intent to immerse consumers in the world of Johnnie Walker whisky through bespoke experiences, the latest House provides an experiential and interactive journey for consumers in the world’s most powerful market for luxury goods.
The Johnnie Walker House Beijing is located at Ch’ien Men 23 – a historical meeting point of East and West in China. Spanning a total floor area of almost 16,000sq ft, the building provided the perfect industrial platform to bring to life the beauty of the architectural vision – the Whisky Distillery.
Creating a highly contemporary space, rich in authentic whisky story telling for the discerning Chinese consumer, the heart of the architectural vision was the Whisky Distillery. Continuing to create premium whisky conversations, essential ingredients to whisky making and historical archives provide the foundation for the introduction and education of whisky. Further enhancing the Johnnie Walker whisky experience, the physical space includes elements of Scottish history and culture, while remaining attuned to the discerning Beijing consumer. The House blends a bar, museum, retail outlet and an exclusive members club.
Leading to the entrance of the House, the iconic Striding Man is placed next to six individual copper-clad structures. Inspired by the traditional Chinese gateway, each structure is engraved with the details of the six Master Blenders of the Walker legacy; paying homage to the unbroken lineage of blenders.
Level 1: A Recreation of John Walker’s Grocery Shop
The first experience guests will encounter is a contemporary recreation of John Walker’s original grocery shop in Kilmarnock. Engaging the senses, the space contains essential ingredients of whisky, including teas and spices. A reception desk clad in copper tiling contains the replica of the original shop inventory, bringing the visitor back in time to the roots of the brand.
With the whisky distillery being at the heart of the whisky making process, the Distillery Bar contains a beautiful ceiling feature of 10,000 vertically hanging copper pipes. Cut to varying heights, the copper pipes form a wave-like sculptural feature, leading guests to the bar. From the void space of the bar, an overhead magnificent view of a feature structure spanning across 3 floors is filled with tiers of premium whisky bottles, beautifully lit. Atop the impressive void structure, sits a distillery model that peeks into the Blending Floor, on Level 1.
Blending Floor: Immersive Whisky Education
Beyond the distillery inspired sliding brass door stamped with Alexander Walker’s quality statement, is the blending floor for immersive whisky education. Upon entering, barley encased in resin forms the floor surface – similar to barley laid out to dry in distilleries. The distillery model from the void structure is the dominant feature of the room, whilst the constellation wall, indicating the different distilleries across all of Scotland, surrounds the blending table to assist with the educational journey through the flavours of the blended whisky.
Designed to the master blender’s specifications, inspiration was drawn from the original Walker blender rooms and those at the Royal Lochnagar distillery in Scotland. As guests are seated at the Master Blender’s table, displays of bottles and blending equipment are displayed, enhancing the education process. A Hall of Fame of the six Master Blenders and their awards further demonstrate their blending expertise.
Located on the mezzanine, the key feature of the Striding Man Bar is the Smoke ceiling, inspired by the bold flavours of the liquid. Adapted from historical Chinese Johnnie Walker ads stemming from 1910, the graphics are cleverly integrated in the wallpaper and lampshades. Further adding to the historical archives, are the 1910 and Churchill Rooms, filled with artifacts of the time period, coupled with dated pictures of old Beijing, relating both ends of world at once.
Leading to the lounge is the members-only whisky vault; a locker wall filled with luggage trunks, containing the purchased bottles of their distinguished guests. Commissioned intricate Beijing House illustrations are etched onto the copper wall, just before entering the lounge. The pinnacle feature of the room is the ceiling covered with globes, and beautifully lit from above. A marble and copper compass sits in the centre of the floor, stating the direction and distance from Cardhu, Scotland to Beijing. Private dining rooms serve up whisky-inspired dining experiences whipped up by the brand’s in-house chef, and guests can enjoy their newly acquired whisky knowledge, with a Trunk bar in each private room.
Asylum is regarded as an unconventional maverick in the creative world, creating unique experiences coupled with humour, wit and a tinge of surprise. Since its inception in 1999, the creative company has worked on multi-disciplinary projects that include interactive design, product development, environmental & interior design, packaging, apparel design, branding and graphic design. Asylum’s work in the creative industry is recognized with more than 100 international awards, capping the lot with Singapore’s President’s Design Award for Designer of the Year (2009) and Design of the Year (2010).Location: Beijing, China Architects: ASYLUM and LOVE