Beijing Design Week 2015
Images courtesy of TAO and BJDW
Split Courtyard House is,
a key project of urban regeneration of historic area in Beijing,
a transformation of traditional typology,
an adaptation to new life style,
and an experiment on scale and construction…
The site is located in the historic Hutong area near White Pagoda Temple (Baitasi, built in 1279AD), one of 33 conservation districts of history and culture in Peking’s historic city area. Single story courtyard houses (Siheyuan) and narrow alleys (Hutong) form the historic urban structure which is well preserved. Pitched roof buildings covered with grey tiles and bricks, trees, pigeons, electric lines in the air, bicycles, slow paced Hutong life, all these create the typical image of famous Beijing Hutong area.
To the south of this area, is the high-density Financial Street District, a compound of modern high-rise office buildings and hotels, developed in past twenty years on the site used to be Hutong. Such contrast between modern and old, rich and poor, vertical and horizontal is the typical image of contemporary Beijing.
The project is the launching project of urban regeneration plan of this area. The program is a rental house, which can be shared by 4 young people working in this area.
In traditional courtyard house (Siheyuan), the central courtyard is the center of house and all rooms face the yard. Such spatial layout is responding to traditional family living, no longer suit for today’s young individual life style. The core need of individual living is privacy. So our idea is to divide the site into four sets of spaces, each with a room and a private small yard. With each set facing a different orientation, they form a pinwheel configuration on layout. In such way, privacy for each room and yard is ensured. In contrast to traditional courtyard house, this house is named split courtyard house(Sifenyuan四分院). In Chinese, the change from合(Unity) to分(Split) suggests the transformation of social structure and life style in the house.
The spatial sequence is carefully considered. In tradition, courtyard is entered at first and room second, meaning courtyard is public and room is private. In Split Courtyard House, the sequence is from room to yard, meaning yard is the most private place. This is responding to the change from collective living to individual living. What is not changed is that yard is always with the living core, which conforms to the Chinese keen of nature in living.
The yard is small but of great significance for the life in here, as it forms an intimate relationship between man and nature. Two apricot trees and two date trees are carefully chosen for four yards, concerning the specific scale of each yard and the traditional Chinese aesthetics.
In each room, the bed is lifted into attic space to free the ground space for living and bathroom. The skylight and full height glazing facing the yard bring in natural light and make contact to nature, offering a quiet and introverted atmosphere.
The central join of the four individual units is turned into shared living space for dining and chatting. A window is opened between the shared living space and each yard, with translucent glass protecting privacy. Each window acquires a unique traditional shape and the tree planted near to it in the yard may cast vivid shadows on it.
Transformed from traditional courtyard house typology, Split Courtyard House is a new type of single story courtyard house inserted into Hutong context. Its external surfaces are constituent parts of the local context, so it inherits pitched roof covered with grey tiles and walls covered with grey bricks or plaster. The inside materials are completely modern. White wall and wooden floor bring in a simple and bright background for modern living.
Adapting to limitation of construction condition in Hutong, such as compact site (10m x 10m), transportation, noise etc, the house is constructed with prefabricated lightweight wall panel system, to shorten the onsite work period and minimize the impact to neighbors. With this system, we also try to minimize the wall thickness in order to save more space.
Small yet functional, intimate yet open to nature, a modern living style yet with attachment to Chinese traditional aesthetics, is what split patio house offers to urban individuals in high density historical context of Beijing's old city.