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Seaside triangular wedding chapel in Sanya by Shanghai United Design is an ode to romance

December 7, 2021

Yazhou Bay is situated at the south corner of China’s Hainan province, facing the vast South China Sea. Although it’s not as well known as Yalong Bay, Sanya Bay or Haitang Bay, it enjoys a profound cultural context. In ancient times, based on the Maritime Silk Road, many Chinese dynasties set counties here, making it a prosperous, liveable place with dynamic cultural activities and convenient transportation.  Architecture practice, Shanghai United Design Group, captured the most essential elements of nature, such as sea, sky, and sunset, and combined them with two impactful elements: triangle and circle.

Poly Shallow Sea is a community located on the seaside of Yanzhou Bay and surrounded by scenic spots such as Fairyland and South Mountain. Merely 200 meters away from the sea on the south, it enjoys a fantastic seafront position which provides an optimal view of the sunset.

Sited between the boundless sea and sky, the building’s compelling triangular structure and volume creates a sense of infinity. Sunset light shines through the central gap of the structure, creating a correlation between light and time.

The rotating device orientates towards the position of the setting sun all year round, vividly implying that the moment is eternity. It is in this way the building fulfils its functions — chapel of a love-themed cultural town used for hosting weddings, and a popular destination for couples.

Yazhou Culture, after more than two thousand years of development, is compiled in the book Yazhou Chronicle, which inherits the original Tianya Culture in Hainan. The superior, comfortable natural conditions and romantic sea and sky landscape breed the local custom of worshiping romantic love, and the unconstrained character of Yazhou.

This project is differentiated from other coastal projects in Sanya City, by drawing on Yazhou’s folk customs and characteristics to create a local cultural brand.

Yazhou Bay enjoys beautiful landscape of shallow sea, mirror-like sky and romantic sunset. The design team adopted architectural approaches to express and strengthen its natural advantages, and to make the sunset view an iconic symbol of the area.


The design combines local cultural elements and excellent natural landscape resources, and integrates romance into the venue. The spaces are connected by themes like “first sight”, “love” and “oath”, to create a series of touching scenes including “Dysis Chapel”, “Love in the South”, “Childhood Sweetheart Station”, and “The Poems with Flowers”.

Circular form is frequently seen in ancient ritual places, such as the Stonehenge. The soft circular shape of Dysis Chapel reconciles the complicated relationship within the master plan. With a complete and perfect geometric shape, the circular volume offers people an open view to the vast sea as they stand on the second floor, and helps form a clear spatial relationship.

The sharp form of the triangle structure breaks the completeness and softness of the circle. It is like the spire of an ancient oriental tower or a gothic church.

Two walking paths are formed by the two high walls and ramps in the courtyard. The lofty walls cast a large area of shadows on both paths. The calming, mysterious interplay of light and shadows adds a solemn monument-like atmosphere to the space.

Walking upward along the curved ramps on both sides, people can have a glimpse of the sky and sea through the gaps of the water courtyard walls. The scene of a water courtyard filled with light and shadows unfolds slowly on both sides, and the water curtain represents the boundary between the secular and the spiritual, light and darkness, and the known and the unknown. The gurgle of water symbolizes the dialogue among time, space, and people. 

The chapel adopted a classic symmetric layout to emphasise the sense of ritual. On the axis of entering the chapel, a bell tower is added as a ceremonial node of the space.

The vaulted bell tower and the mysterious triangular chapel form a playful space similar to that in Monument Valley, carrying memories of the bygone times as well as a futuristic vibe.

The architects utilised shadows to endow the building with a distinct form, and emphasised the interdependence of light and shadows. The corridor space concealed in shadows and the symmetrical layout imbue the building with a sense of monolithic quality.

The window frame of the chapel is designed based on a T-shaped structure, while the curved wall and the protruding second floor slab also form an abstract “T” shape. Meanwhile, the imagery of cross is intentionally avoided, in order not to evoke association with Christianity. Instead, the architects integrated the references to sacredness from various cultures into the design, expecting people to resonate with the venue subconsciously.

In the initial design stage, the chapel was planned to face the direction of the sunset on Valentine’s Day, on the basis of calculation. The architects thought that since it is possible to connect the chapel with the sunset on a certain day, why not make this happen every day? 

To that end, a rotating stage was added to the final design scheme, to enable the chapel to rotate in accordance with the direction of the sun. Based on the spatial design, the rotating device is attached to the base of the chapel.

The bridge from the platform to the chapel is designed to be telescopic and movable. During a wedding ceremony, the bridge slowly extends, gradually laying the road of happiness from the sacred chapel.

With abstract, pure, mysterious and romantic geometric spatial structures, the project provides a venue that responds to people’s spiritual pursuit for happiness and brings them joy and inspiration.

The carefully arranged classical symmetrical layout, the narrow passage leading up the steps, the gurgling water curtain, the tranquil pools, the lofty bell tower, the mysterious ambience, the dazzling light, together with the vast sea, the humid sea breeze, the splendid sunset, and the limitless sunset express the architects’ vision of the celebration of love.

See the full image gallery here:

Project details:

Project name: Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea, Sanya

Location: Yazhou Bay, Yacheng District, Sanya, Hainan

Completion time: 2020

Client: Poly (Hainan) Tourism Development Co., Ltd.

Design firm: Shanghai United Design Group Co., Ltd (

Architectural design: Shanghai United Design Group Co., Ltd. (The Second Architectural Design Institute)

Landscape design: GVL International Group

Interior design: ENJOY DESIGN

Curtain wall design: Guangdong Jinsheng Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd.

Lighting design: GALAXY LIGHT

Construction drawings: Guangdong Architectural & Research Institute 

Photography: Shen Zhonghai

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