Springwoods Ecological Tourism Town Master Plan + Palm Hotel

Creating a destination leisure community for urban dwellers in the heart of the Heyuan mountains

Springwoods master plan sketch


Heyuan City, China


8 square kilometers


  • WATG was commissioned to master plan a new development to attract regional visitors and long-term residents from nearby cities like Shenzhen
  • The vision for this project is a “value-driven” resort community that fuses luxury residences with a tourism village that harmoniously blends in with the natural environment
  • The development will feature 3,000 residences, three hotels (including one recently completed by WATG’s architecture studio) as well as unique amenities like a cultural village, community center, youth library, tea garden, and meditation hall
  • WATG also master planned a variety of entertainment and event venues in line with the Client’s vision to host a lecture series inspired by TED Talks
Springwoods master plan sketch

THE CHALLENGE: Preserving Natural Resources While Capitalizing on Mountain Views

Situated in a picturesque site in the Heyuan mountains, the Springwoods Ecological Tourism Town is envisioned to be a predominantly residential community, supported by hospitality and cultural village components. Founded by the legendary Chinese mobile technology pioneer and entrepreneur, Mr. Deying Guo, Springwoods Group wanted to create a resort-like community that was designed to attract guests with similar philosophies and values for appreciating nature. With Springwoods being their first real estate project, Springwoods entrusted WATG to develop a comprehensive master plan in line with their vision.

The project is aimed to be both a regional solution and alternative to city life where everyone, regardless if they are a resident or visitor, can feel like a part of the community. This ethos guided WATG’s planning approach as well, which aimed to work harmoniously within this natural mountain site while preserving natural resources. The site’s mountain slopes and changing topography served as a framework for housing density, guided by key environmental considerations.

From the start, WATG prioritized biodiversity, including sourcing a previous study conducted on the site which served as a crucial tool for the Client’s landscape consultant for plant selection. Previously, the site had been overrun with non-native plants which weren’t designed to thrive in the site’s humid climate. WATG’s solution helped advise ways to re-introduce native plants back into the development.

Due to the natural water reservoir on-site, the Springwoods Ecological Tourism Town could not disrupt the water quality which feeds directly into Hong Kong. WATG worked closely with the Client’s landscape and engineering consultants to also address the fluctuating water levels to ensure the water quality through integrated stormwater management planning strategies.

Springwoods illustrative master plan

OPPORTUNITIES: Full Immersion Into Nature With the Best Elements of Hospitality

Targeted towards middle and upper-class professionals “escaping” from nearby urban hubs, the Springwoods Ecological Tourism Town is designed as a reprieve from city life where guests and residents can fully immerse themselves in the natural environment.

In addition to the surrounding mountains, the development boasts a scenic lake as the centerpiece. WATG site planned the shape and placement of the lake, intentionally grouping amenities like food halls, restaurants and spiritual buildings along the river bank to create enticing moments for guests to take in the views. Unlike typical residential communities in China, Springwoods values the body, sprit, and mind enhancement opportunities of its residents and visitors. As the overall master planner, WATG worked with a group of well-known architects to plan a series of iconic cultural and spiritual buildings such as a community library, a community hall, and an iconic tea house. Renowned Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, will also design another masterpiece in the village.

“Healthy living” was a key pillar driving the guest experience, taking full advantage of open spaces to focus on outdoor recreation and adventure activities in the mountains. As soon as a guest arrives, there is no need for a car. Ample walking and bicycle paths wind throughout the development, giving guests a change of scenery every twenty minutes through a range of neighborhoods and activities.

Palm Hotel during the daytime

In addition to the master plan, WATG also designed The Palm, which opened in December 2020.

Completed in 2020, Phase 1 included residences, retail and a 73-key boutique hotel, The Palm, which was designed by WATG’s architecture studio. Inspired by Mediterranean estates, The Palm offers a resort-like environment for high-end clientele. WATG intentionally sited the hotel entrance on the upper plateau so when guests arrive, their first impression is a beautiful overlook into the courtyard and lobby. As guests check in, they cross over a bridge lined with European columns into the hotel’s outdoor terrace with direct views to the lake.

Due to the region’s warm climate, WATG designed several open-air spaces with direct connection to the outdoors. WATG planned the hotel’s guestrooms across three stories to capitalize on lake and mountain views from every direction.

Palm Hotel at night

The Palm takes inspiration from Mediterranean estates to offer a resort-like environment

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Springwood lake with Palm Hotel on the right

The Palm takes inspiration from Mediterranean estates to offer a resort-like environment

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Palm Hotel arrival

The Palm takes inspiration from Mediterranean estates to offer a resort-like environment

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, The Palm experienced a successful grand opening and is now catering to high demand for hotel rooms, requiring bookings two weeks in advance. In response to the pandemic, remote work has provided an opportunity for those looking to relocate from urban areas who still want to maintain a reasonable commute for when offices reopen.

Phase 2 will include more residences, expected to complete at a later date.

With sites like this rarely accessible to urban dwellers, the Springwoods Ecological Tourism Town will serve as a fusion of tourism and residential that presents a high value system where everyone can experience the best hospitality.