Renovations and transformations of houses are always unique and so is the makeover of this of the family residence in rural China. An old site that had been the client’s family home since adolescence was the design scope for the team of Chaoffice. Located in the Junxiang Village, which is 70km away from Beijing, the old building with an attached yard attracted the architect since it also consisted of lush vegetation around. The low structures and the intimate yard did not provide for an extremely comfortable living, but the design team took these site conditions as an opportunity. From an old traditional building to a modern family home, the results are quite appealing!
The narrow passages:
Although the transformation to a modern building was accelerated, the original forms, colors, and materials were kept intact as the client had a personal attachment to the site. The house was converted into a family home that encourages social interactions via a series of interesting passages. The three pre-existing buildings were retained as it is and the additional new structures that acted as “connectors” were constructed in between them. Their purpose was to provide additional rooms and space and integrate the old buildings instead of keeping them isolated. Now, they were connected into a “belt” type space with plants everywhere that created little ecosystems evoking a sense of smell, touch, and watching.
The bedrooms are situated on the ends of this yard and a garden was created a public space in the passage between them. The old cellar also created an opportunity for a new passage by using a hidden door beneath a cushioned sitting area in the kitchen!
On the corners of the yard, the three previously isolated bedrooms reflected their style and characteristic associated with the village. The main room, also the grandparents’ room which is located in the north was left untouched to the maximum level. Keeping the features, materials, and appearance as it is, the architects were asked to make additions to it. Two-layer doors and windows, a new lighting system, and a curtain system were installed to the existing building. There were abundant old doors in the yard and the team found a way to convert them into structural elements for the new ceiling lights. The bathrooms have a modern and contemporary vibe which is enhanced by the rustic stone walls and a natural settlement around it.
The rooms are not spacious but rather narrow, making the Chaoffice team design them differently. The dining room which is a part of the old west building is just 2.4 meters in width. To elevate the area, the team installed a fixed cushioned seating along the wall and placed a full-length mirror between the shelves and seating. This increased the illusion of the space making the 2.4 meters seem like a spacious area of 18 meters and blending in the inside and outside.
The greenery and structure in between make it appear that a valley with either end on a higher level and the central area in the lower. To amalgamate the old features and new, a unique truss created out of small 3cm x 3cm steel tubes and was placed over the old pillar which made space for vines to grow in between which envelopes and covers the structure. These natural elements included in the built spaces, made the designated boundaries to blur and create a space wholly.
The attic and additional bedroom:
The former storage room was a small area in the eastern building which was transformed as well. A new steel structure added to the storage created a space as an attic in the roof that would be used as a third bedroom. This additional floor or space created a different elevation with distinctive characteristics that appealed to the passerby. The lights from the attic illuminated the hutong, which means a narrow lane in traditional Chinese cities.
Also called the “House of Passages” and rightly so, the Chaoffice team used the narrow lanes as a part of their architectural design which enhanced social interaction as well as a cohesive space including the individual buildings. While each structure had its unique charm, the team tweaked and re-fabricated certain elements that gave it a whole new aesthetic and functions too. With greenery and nature all around, the comfort and coziness of the site were increased and blended the line between the built and the environment. An apt example of mixing the old and new and also traditional and modern architectural elements, space displays a peculiar and integrated design.