Flowing Cloud Township Villa is located in Qinglongwu, an ancient village in Tonglu, and is part of the “Fangyukongxiangsu Cultural and Creative Complex”. In the future, various cultural activities will be held here all year round.
Project Name｜Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Adress｜Qinglongwu, Xiekengkou, Luci Village, Fuchunjiang Town, Tonglu County,
Design｜MDO (MORE DESIGN OFFICE)
Design Content｜Interior design,Planning design, Soft concept
Design Director｜Justin Bridgland、Jaycee Chui
Design Team｜Da Gao, Szuniang Tseng, Carlo Alberto Follo, Yabin Yao, Kelsey Alexander, Yanping Tang, Shengnan Xia, Haiyan Peng, Zhiyuan Wang, Jiacheng Que、Di Chang
Photography｜Zhi Xia, Xun Zheng, Zhao A, Andy He
Completion Time｜2017- 2021
In 2017, MDO was commissioned to renovate 6 existing village houses on the original site and transform them into guest houses.
The concept of the design is to create a retreat outside the city, so that people can feel the history and material culture of Qinglongwu, and immerse themselves in the connection with nature.
Time and patina
When we first visited the site we were interested in the existing buildings and their relationship with the landscape. The buildings are all sited in a valley very close to each other linked by a small cobbled street. Each buildings looks out onto Bamboo forest which envelopes the village.
The buildings have this great sense of ageing, the old walls and windows tell the stories of the past through the marks and imperfections on their surfaces.
The existing building had a traditional timber. We wanted to see if it was possible to keep it and adapt it. However on closer inspection we realized the existing structure and roof were too weak and damaged to be retained. The existing windows were very small which created a dark a gloomy internal environment with no real visual connection to the beautiful bamboo forest.
The design approach is to modernise the existing buildings with a sensitive approach and improve the relationship with the landscape. Where possible the existing walls, windows and doors are all retained and repaired by local craftsmen. To fix the roof a new steel structure was built inside the existing walls, and the roof structure and finish was done using traditional techniques and materials.
New elements are added to the interior as objects placed independently from the existing walls, allowing guests to clearly read the relationship between the old and the new.
We added underfloor heating and modern bathrooms to make the space feel very comfortable, but the other functions were kept quite simple to be less of a distraction. So the guests can avoid TV or other digital distractions and focus on real interaction with the nature or their friends and family.
Social connection is at the heart of the project. The design creates moments for people to come together to enjoy each other’s time. Whether it be an external space for group bbq, or living area for families to chat, to more private quiet spaces for people to have some time for self reflection, in each environment the design focuses on the connection between the landscape and existing buildings.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, we hope that our guests can experience the changing rhythm of the four seasons.
To improve the internal daylight we introduced new windows which followed the random timber window of the old building. These new additions were finished in a thin metal frame, distinguishing them from the existing.
The placement of these new windows was very important, as we wanted to frame the landscape from certain positions inside, for example the view from the bed, or the view from the sofa, or the glimpse of the valley from the shower, the landscape is treated almost like a painting.
The new roof was lifted off the existing walls to create a more generous ceiling height. We created a clerestory window on all sides of the buildings. Diffused light softly penetrates into the depths of the space, and guests can see the bamboo forest from any angle in the roof, providing a constant connection to the landscape.
Place and environment
Since there are two building structures that cannot be repaired, MDO sees the new building as an opportunity to establish a dialogue with the countryside and nature.
The location of the two new buildings is the closest to the mountain route, carrying the recreational functions such as reception and bar.
The architectural form is regarded as the rock exposed from the hillside by the baptism of water and wind. The surface is rough concrete, which contrasts sharply with the traditional rammed earth of other village buildings.
Here, we recommend facing materials that can be integrated with nature, bearing the influence of rain, sunlight and snow, and adding natural patina to the facade. This means that within a few years, the exterior wall will become a part of nature, blurring the boundary between architecture and nature.
The creation of the framed window scenery makes the bamboo forest an indispensable part of the interior. During the day, the passing of daylight is reflected on the wall as the shadow changes. When night falls, guests can watch the twinkling starry sky through the windows, enriching the memories of travellers here.
“The moon is hazy and the lights are noisy, and the stars are shining in the Lanxuan.”
The traditional lantern culture has been transformed into the inspiration and starting point of the lighting design. We regard the new building as a beacon that guides travelers. No matter what direction people approach it from, it welcomes people to enter it.
The changing light colors suggest the change of space function, and it is also a direct indication of the dynamics that are taking place in the space and the atmosphere of the space.
The architecture and space of Flowing Cloud Village are technical products of local crafts and culture. The vast China has a diverse culture, landscape and people, so there will never be a solution that can be applied to all environments. As designers, in the future, we will devote ourselves to studying and understanding the nuances and creating a unique design for each place.
MDO is responsible for the complete design of architecture, interior and soft furnishing, does it bring more flexibility in design and in what detail?
(For example, the opening of the roof /sky window realized through structural transformation?)
Jaycee and I are originally trained as architects, so we always have very spatial approach to interiors. We are also very interested in the relationship between interior, architecture and landscape. So we were fortunate here to be able to control the overall environment, to be able to consider the inside from the outside, and vice versa.
As we could adapt the architecture, from the roof, to the external envelope, we had more opportunity to introduce daylight and views to the inside.
We wanted guests to feel the natural rhythms of nature. And in order to improve daylight, we lifted the roofs off the wall, allowed light to gently permeate deep into space. From wherever you are, there is always a view of the bamboo forest or sky. We designed this clerestory window to have no curtains, so that in the morning the daylight gently wakes you up, and you can become tuned into the natural daily cycle of rural life.
As a designer with a Western background and living in Asia for many years, how do you understand and treat the local characteristics and human attributes in Asian projects?
As an architect I first look at place, and the environment. To understand a sites context, its relationship to its landscape, and how people have used and lived there.
For me as a UK designer, I am amazed with the scale of China and how across the country there is such a range in the cultures, landscapes and people. So there is never one solution which can be applied to every environment. As designers we need to understand the differences, the nuances, and create designs which are special for each place.
Where does the original aspiration of MDO come from?
How do you understand the regional and humanistic characteristics of Tonglu how to refine them in MDO’s design language, translate them and
integrate them into the space experience?
I am interested in how local traditions and cultures can be seen in the way space is used, the relationships of public and private space. I look at how the buildings are a result of local techniques in craftsmanship and culture.
I want these elements to be retained in the design and use our skills as architects to gently transform whilst maintaining this balance between old and new.
The concept of a boutique B&B is basically a lifestyle communication.
What kind of attitude does MDO want to drive through the village of Tonglu, and will this project inspire people in the future?
Tonglu offers the visitor a unique experience different from a traditional luxury hotel. Here we can have a closer connection to nature, to be able to relax and unwind, free from the distractions of modern life. To see local tradition, to taste local foods. It’s about sharing the local tradition and passing them on to the next generation.
I think if in the future the homestay changes and becomes a village again, then we have helped modernize the village, but in a sympathetic way which respects the old. I hope that this type of sympathetic renovation can be a model for other villages.
Justin Bridgland （Jaycee Chui）MDO
Founded in 2004 by partners Jaycee Chui and Justin Bridgland, MDO is an inter-disciplinary architectural and interior design practice based in Shanghai.
MDO Shanghai practice’s burgeoning global portfolio includes real estate and planning,architecture design, urban renewal, commercial design, product, exhibition and graphic works. MDO UK is our new brand specializing in designing and developing high end sustainable residential projects in Europe.
Jaycee Chui is a registered architect and interior designer of the British ARB, and Justin Bridgland is a RIBA certified architect and musician.Different cultural backgrounds and cross-border make MDO emphasize the notion of “transformation” in design practice, which excel at integrating different cultural contexts into designs. Based on research, MDO anchors its ethos on the dynamic interaction of exploring scale and proportion, experience, detail, material, form, light, and color,creating journeys and stories for the space.