Restoration and renovation are common terms in the architectural world. They are a reflection of the efforts of architects all over the world to preserve and safeguard the heritage of our built environment. Historical places have a spirit of their own that helps us understand the past and guide future architecture. Every place has its sacred energy and presence that must be preserved while intervening and renovating it.

Xiangyu Xiangyuan B&B Siheyuan 

Singing a beautiful melody of rammed earth, wood, and strip stones, Xiangyu Xiangyuan is a restored homestay located in Dazhai Village in China‘s Xiang’an district. This project celebrates the restoration of three ancestral dwellings built in different eras. It is a trio of traditional Fujian homes restored by Carlos Zwick, the head designer from The Design Institute of Landscape and Architecture China Academy of Art. Additionally, two new buildings have been added to the site. 

Southern Fujian is located on the coast of China. It is one of the essential transportation hubs of the “Maritime Silk Road”. Located on the coast, its location was best suited for foreign trade and business relations. This resulted in the settlement of people with rich and diverse foreign cultures, reflected in its architecture. 

As seen in most cities today, the onset of globalization and the construction of modern buildings is causing the ancestral houses built with traditional materials and techniques in the Dazhai village to fade away gradually. Carlos Zwick took up the challenge and spent years understanding conventional homes and consciously planning the beautiful homestay. 

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Site and Design 

Dazhai Village has a flat terrain surrounded by mountains and the sea. With a history of 800 years, it is an accumulation of beautiful Fujian ancestral dwellings. The restoration aims to retain the rural vernacular essence of the place while creating a modern-day guesthouse, allowing guests to experience the best of both styles comfortably. 

Like most Chinese houses, the three ancestral homes were built using strip stones, rammed earth, and wood construction techniques. Instead of repairing the old buildings as before, the architects have created contemporary elements amalgamated into the old structures. Xiangyu Xiangyuan B&B consists of old and new parts that beautifully complement each other. 

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Restoration 

Both the exterior and interior of the site have undergone a restoration process. There was a collapse in two of three homes, allowing the architects much freedom to intervene with innovative designs. The main concept of restoration is their focus on recreating fond childhood memories. The lead architect aimed to rebuild the collapsed volumes with contemporary elements using steel, glass, and brick. They reinforced the old wooden beams, frames, and tiles. 

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In the first building, the front atrium collapsed. A simple geometric building in an eclectic style was added to one of the collapsed volumes to create a backdrop for the traditional elements to stand out. 

A part of the second building had collapsed in the front half of the hall and kitchen. The broken trusses, doors, and roofs were strategically designed again. The designer uses steel structures to support the original wooden structure. Large floor-to-ceiling height windows are adopted to bring in natural light and make the traditional home visually light. 

The third building is made of stone slabs. It is a testament to traditional architecture‘s strength; it remains stable even after a hundred years. Although it meets current safety standards, measures must be taken to ensure its safety for years. To achieve this, the designer used an internal steel structure for strength.

Materials 

“Modern architecture does not mean the use of immature new materials; the main thing is to refine materials in a more human direction.” – Alvar Aalto. The material palette of any architectural space defines its character. The juxtaposition of contrasting materials creates depth and interest. At the same time, care is taken not to overwhelm the space and balance visual weight. 

The designer’s concept was to create a modern interpretation of traditional architecture. While the external structure has a modern approach, the interiors have melodies of wood, stone, and porcelain. Wooden flooring is maintained to recreate the warmth of traditional homes. A contrast is created with a contemporary ceiling. The interior richly encapsulates Southern Fujian home and culture, from locally woven grass carpets to the staircase handrails covered with straw rope. This curated experience invites guests and travellers from all over the world to revel in it. 

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Established in 1984, The Landscape Architecture Design Institute of China Academy of Art Co., Ltd has abundant talent and varied disciplines. Based on this strong background, their goal is to serve society. They undertake thousands of development projects each year. Their determination and drive have helped create 15 branches, three centers, and 3 workshops. The Institute aims to continue innovating following its five-principle approach – integrating planning, architecture, landscape, interiors, and public art. 

Citation:

Online Sources

Xiangyu Xiangyuan Homestay, Landscape Architecture Design Institute, China Academy of Art (2022) inf news. Available at: https://inf.news/en/design/2ecbb32e3b9137cb2255d9df2d432506.html (Accessed: December 30, 2022). 

Frew, A.S. (2021) 5 brilliant ways to breath life back into dying buildings, Journal. Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/reviving-historic-buildings/ (Accessed: December 30, 2022). 

This B&B in Xiamen is the rebirth of traditional architecture (no date) Plain. Available at: https://plainmagazine.com/xiangyu-xiangyuan-bb-xiamen/ (Accessed: December 30, 2022). 

designboom (2020) Xiangyuxiangyuan home stay combines old and new constructions in China’s Xiang’an District, designboom. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/xiangyuxiangyuan-home-stay-china-07-08-2020/ (Accessed: December 30, 2022). 

 

Author

Rhea is an architect by profession who believes that architecture is an intangible form of art that has the power to shape people’s life and surroundings. The relationship between built and unbuilt spaces intrigues her. She is a curious person with a love for art and its various forms of expression. She has a keen interest in travel, photography, and music.

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