Located in the “Ten Crossing” scenic area in Fangshan, Beijing, the project finds itself in one of the most magnificent Karst landscapes in northern China. The site as we found it, was an old farmyard ein the middle of the mountain. In this project, confronting with the unconquerable nature as well as individual’s need for shelter, we tried to transform the outside world into part of body’s “digging”. This is our imagination of living on mountains in northern China.
Mountains in Shidu take quite particular forms: straight lines, clear edges, as if have been chopped from the top, approaching the eye intensely. Driving along Juma River, human body can almost feel the cutting from those magnificent slates.
However, the specular landscape here is sculpted not only by geological movement but also by human activity. Rich village activities can be found along Juma River. Historically, the “Ten Crossing” area boasts an abundant stone production. Traces of stone construction can still be found in local villages.
The lot was blasted, excavated and flattened out of the mountain. Its former inhabitants enveloped it with a tall robust stone wall, inside which sat three separate farm houses. The principal house struck us as most sturdy and impressive, built from raw stones acquired from the mountain, while the two side houses constructed cost-effectively out of red bricks. Together, they close on a courtyard in the middle: an architectural layout typical to northern China.
The objective is two-fold: to internalize natural landscape, and to be a part of landscape.
Pushing Out the Limits
Standing in the courtyard, we felt intensely drawn toward the mountains, despite that they were truncated by the stone wall. The core of the design, then, was to lower and push out the outer wall, generating a central space that opens toward the valley, with a momentum directed at the mountains. Its outward motion makes its tip appear afloat, as if hovering directly over the valley.
The new wall takes on a more abstract materiality, concrete, which speaks to the directionality of the courtyard. The concrete then extends inward to form a loop of platform, acting as a light base for the heavy houses, a contrast that is somewhat anti-instinctive to the eyes.
Re-enhancing the Old
When confronted with rebirth projects, we refuse to juxtapose the old with the new, treating the old as a background. We enable the new to interact with the old structure, enhancing and enriching it.
We intend to obscure the hierarchy among the three houses. Raising the height of south wing and “dressing” the brick houses with a layer of raw stone facade, we enrich and enhance the old, giving importance to the otherwise weaker structures and bringing the three houses to a more balanced and united whole. Power of the solid volume is further enhanced by recessed openings. The stone dressing also brought more depth and fortitude upon the facade openings, calling out their “facial” quality. All the openings are simply adjustment or scaling of the original ones, yet provide brand new view.
Weaving and Excavating
Now, the three robust structures are seeking a way to anchor themselves into the landscape. We create five “outdoor rooms”, five differently shaped and sized courtyards that grow around the houses. They have closures like that of architectural rooms, but are exposed in natural climate. Together with newly built volumes, they form an undulating boundary, which “weaves” the entire complex into the landscape.
Courtyards and rooms are more like a series of excavation instead of places of different functions. Unlike typical hotels, the spaces are organized so that everything feels similarly scaled and non-hierarchical. The “cluster of rooms” offers more possibilities of inner circulation, which introduce an aspect of inward living, whilst the complex as a whole opens outward.
From Raw Material to Façade
The project explores a nuanced approach toward the old, enhancing the original structure, through an innovative stonework between “dry stone construction” and “dressing”. Having discovered some natural quarries nearby, we transported freshly mined stones to the site. With participation of local stonemasons, only three parameters, stone size, gap size and gap pattern, are predetermined, with the rest of the work completed according to each stonemason’s own experience and sense.
In Der Bau, Kafka described a shelter connected by cavities and passages where I, with the body, by digging, create rooms to live in. The fear and anxiety about the outside world are dissolved in this project for the outside world has been transformed into a part of body’s “digging”.