The project is based in Liangjiashan Village in Wuyi County, Jinhua, Zhejiang Province. Seated by the mountain, most local buildings are constructed with wood structure and rammed earth walls. The village buildings are guarded by ancient trees on the bank of a stream flowing through,. QIngxiao Residence is situated by the stream on the opposite side of the terraced fields, the distant surrounding mountains and backed by the whole village and the rolling mountain. This is an ideal retreat for seclusion. The original place had a rammed earth building with three rooms and two floors as well as a small public toilet. The rammed earth walls had cracked seriously and tilted outwards; Therefore, considering these factors, reconstruction became the most viable solution.
The original building, the rammed earth house with three rooms had three small auxiliary rooms next to it, and a public toilet, all fall on a stone pedestal about two meters high. The stream nearby forms a stair with the building, whose border is jagged. The entrance of the main building on the site is on the back linked by a small alley to the north.
Standing on the hillside opposite of the building, the entire village comes into sight. The project is located at the most conspicuous place by the river. A residence here should be fully integrated into the overall texture and spatial organization of the original village. The architectural design retains the inward-looking organization of the building, maintaining the original mass axis relationship, reorganizing the building boundary, continuing and strengthening the base of the building on the platform, and re-structuring the texture, group space, architecture and the relationship between the base, alleys, the stream, the terraced fields and the surrounding mountains.
With the changes in terrain altitude, dwelling volume and direction, the boundaries of the roof also present an ever-changing relationship, which is hoped to be presented in the architecture to echo the variation in local roofs. The whole building was broken down and re-structured to demonstrate changes in directions and slopes of the roof so that the roof itself and the volume form a harmonious relationship with the local village.
Village houses are basically built by the mountain, most of which are made of rammed earth that is sensitive to humidity and water, and naturally forms a terraced landscape. The original building at the base was built on a stone platform, below which a stream runs through, posing a relatively big difference in altitude with the path, and therefore forming a multi-level, stair-like platform with the location. The main entrance is set from the village path below, and there are three turns at the entrance to mitigate the height difference of the terrain. A stone slope leads the way towards the neighborhood, where a twist introduces several stone stairs to the entrance. Turing around for several steps, the path continues to the courtyard, providing an experience of climbing up the mountain by changes in height, which also reflects on a walking experience in the old village.
Rural construction has unique restrictive factors like inconvenient transportation, and lack of resources. So, building materials are highly localized, using green tiles recovered in the village, the original building’s materials are recycled; including, rammed earth wall materials, local masonry blocks, bamboo, old stone slabs, recycled old rubbles, and terrazzo, which are convenient for local material retrieval, recycling, and are environmental-friendly.
The construction method follows local traditional construction techniques by recycling the main materials from the original walls of the rammed earth house. After removal, they are piled on the ground beside the building. During construction, they were used as the new wall after disposal. For one thing, this saves costs for purchasing and transporting materials; for another, functions of rammed materials were also given full play. It’s an extension of memory and construing method of the countryside, but also an inheritance of traditional technique and respect towards the wisdom of craftsmen in the village. It also advocates for a mindset of recycling in the local village.
During construction, we asked local artisans to participate and provided due payment every day. Wage is paid according to their daily work, and they usually finish their work before going back home for farming without much expectation to get a high salary from long-term work. We think this brings the best quality in their working. The artisans can sense the internal structure by selecting each brick to build up the wall in a suitable position. Bigger ones are put at the bottom while smaller ones at the top. Construction in this way follows the law of force and natural principles. At the same time, hand-made traces and imprints of time are kept for originality.
The building uses a more convenient steel and wood structure. Similar to the idea of a traditional building in the village, the structure is separated from the outer wall system, and connected to the external wall with connection points.
How to bring nature into architecture
Standing in the field, the terraced trees and mountains around the river come into sight. The introduction of natural landscape has become an important element in the project. As the guest rooms have large windows facing the terraced landscape and distant mountains. It introduces the view into the interior space as much as possible. Wangshan Pavilion is a leisure place for a cup of tea or simple rest. The roof is designed very low to focus the view on the inner courtyard and the stream, so that guests will embrace the sight of surrounding mountains upon sitting down.
The water bar, as a public space in the residence, can be opened to the public. It is a relatively flat space, whose facade is densely covered with bamboo grille dividing it into upper, middle and lower sections. The sight of three interfaces of the water bar forms a horizontal scroll that is continuous but separated by shade and light, which includes the old tree as its part. The scroll continues to reveal the scenes of village laneways, corridors, water courtyards, terraces, and old trees. By using this perspective, it is hoped that artificial architecture can be connected to the nature. The roof platform above gathers all the perspectives for visitors to listen to the water, watch the river, look at the mountains, view the house, and appreciate the trees. Taking the stairs upwards onto the platform, the sight suddenly opens up, releasing the possibility of the building with the surrounding village.
Microclimate cycle brought by the wind
At noon in summer, when the temperature outside is very high, and it feels particularly hot in other houses, I walked into the residence and felt a sudden drop in the temperature. In the corridor, wind funnels through, even in a yard under the sunshine, it won’t be too warm. The inside is even cooler. The original architectural design takes into consideration the ventilation and lighting, heat insulation and other aspects of performance. The volume of the building forms a step with the site, and many small holes for ventilation and view were opened on the peripheral wall. The air flow in this space creates a feeling of natural wind, and the building materials also absorb heat. In addition, the water surface of the nearby creek and the shade of ancient trees strengthen the microclimate cycle of the building.
Return the space to villagers
There was originally a small public toilet, which was a public space collectively used by the villagers. When constructing the residence, I hope to give back this part of the public space to them. The location is at the end of the roadway, next to the old trees and the stream. Therefore, we used a semi-open pavilion facing the trees and the stream so that villagers can spend time chatting here. The pavilion also functions as a lighthouse to show the villagers their way home in the evening.
Located among the old trees, the architecture has a relatively complicated situation in terms of its ownership. Before the design, it is also too difficult to give a specific boundary, which had led to repetitive problems during the construction. Many unexpected troubles occur: the villagers fused to share the path, therefore, we had to abort the plan that each suite would have an independent stair that is beyond the boundary and moved the entrance back; boundary issues also came up when deciding the base for the platform, as the width of the road needed to suit vehicles. Surely, these problems are also unique ones in a construction within an old village, which guarantees its unique feature and gives life and fun to the project. During this process, we learnt many strategies and solutions to issues like these, and have accumulated experience for later practice.
Project Name: Wuyi Liangjiashan · Qingxiao Residence
Designed by: Shulin Architectural Design
Company website: www.hzshulin.com
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Architect in Charge: Chen Lin
Design Team: Liu Dongying, Shi Weiquan, Chen Yini
Structural form: Steel-wood
Project Type: Country House
Design time: 2016.10-2017.9
Construction time: 2017.9-2019.5
Project location: Liangjiashan Village, Wuyiliu Town, Jinhua
Project Owner: Hongfu Tourism Group Company.
Building materials: Rammed earth, small green tiles, bamboo, old slate, terrazzo, rubbles
Building area: 320㎡
Construction cost: 2.5 million
Architectural Photography: Zhao Yilong