The ancient villages in Dali, nestled on the west coast of Erhai Lake beneath the majestic Cangshan Mountain, provide a beautiful setting for a unique studio project. Traditional houses in this region, facing east to capture the morning sun and shielded from winter winds, create a lifestyle deeply connected to the natural surroundings. The studio, situated in the southwest corner of a village at the base of Cangshan, underwent a transformative renovation that harmonizes with the ruins on-site, resulting in a space that seamlessly blends with the mountainous landscape.
The initial challenge was to establish a new connection between the inward-looking courtyard and the vast mountains and fields. With an eight-month deadline to move to a new studio, the team adopted an on-site approach, commuting daily to the construction site. This method integrated design with demolition and renovation, allowing continuous refinement of ideas as the project unfolded.
The stone house, a central element of the studio, underwent a strategic transformation to establish a strong connection with Cangshan Mountain. By creating openings in the stone walls, the design achieved a harmonious balance between interior comfort, natural lighting, and breathtaking mountain views. Horizontal windows bring the rolling Cangshan mountain range into the room, and vertical windows make one realize how high the Cangshan Mountain is, and the geographic dissecting line from the top of the mountain to the room and the. The addition of concrete window frames and steel window glass created a visual and tactile interplay between the rough stone walls and smooth glass, reducing the perceived weight of the traditional structure.
The north building, initially inward-focused, underwent a sectional transformation to transition from a garden cave on the first floor to a loft with panoramic views on the third floor. The careful demolition of interior brick walls and the addition of diagonal bracing columns addressed structural challenges, resulting in a contemporary and translucent upper volume that contrasts with the old stone sloped roof context.
The second phase of the design focused on transforming the site into a cohesive and inviting environment. The ruins on-site played a crucial role in creating two distinct courtyard spaces: an inward-looking courtyard beneath the ruins and an outward-looking platform above them. Utilizing the height difference, the ruins were extended northward, forming a layered "rocky hill" with plants that relieved pressure from neighboring buildings and directed attention to the mountains and plants.
Connecting elements, such as the "corridor bridge," strategically guided visitors through the garden, creating a seamless transition between the stone house and the north building. The bridge, with its transparent appearance and metal tensile nets, provided a sense of floating on water and added an element of danger to the journey. At the end of the bridge, a Ruin Garden Café with a single-slope roof offered a unique perspective, connecting the courtyard with distant mountain views.
The café pavilion, designed as a lightweight structure emerging from the ruins, featured concrete plinths resembling furniture and a thin, counter-ribbed steel roof supported by channel steel. The upper section's delicate construction added an element of wonder, challenging visitors to question the support of such a thin and light roof.
The garden tour, guided by the interconnected elements, finally ended in the Ruins Garden Café, where the architectural experience was rewoven into a holistic experience. The studio's formal name, "Ruins Cave Garden," encapsulates its essence – reflecting the site's history, the cave-like interior experience, and the spatial strategy merging interior and exterior experiences.
In conclusion, the "Ruins Cave Garden" studio project in Dali exemplifies a harmonious integration of architecture with its natural surroundings. From the strategic renovation of traditional structures to the thoughtful transformation of ruins into inviting spaces, the design reflects a deep connection to the landscape and a commitment to creating a nurturing and immersive environment.
Lead Architect: Zhou Wu
Constructor: Dali Sicheng Decoration Co., Guo Hanwen Team
Concrete Consultant: Suzao Architects
Landscape Design: Ju Liu, Zhou Wu
Structural Design: Yanming Cai
Design Team: Nuo Chen, Xinmiao Ye, Huangyi Cai, Changrui Liu, Haowen Bai, Zhiting Tang, Jiaqi Hu, Yunxiang Chen, Yiqi Sun, Chunxiang Zhou, Ziqi Mu, Ziyao Chen, Huaxin Zhang, Yunrui Deng, Xiaoyong Chen, Huiyan Wang
Resident Architect: Nuo Chen, Xinmiao Ye
Constructor(Phase I Building Remodeling And Decoration): Dali Sicheng Decoration Co.
Phase Ii Steel Structure: Guo Hanwen Team
Phase Ii Stonemasons: Maozhong Yang, Maoze Yang, Xilin Li, Gailiang Yang (Bai ethnic group from this village)
Phase Ii Carpentry: Jin Yang, Xueyou Yang, Shesong Yang, An Shui (Bai)
Phase Ii Civil Engineering And Odd Jobs: Ao Guoxiang team (Yi ethnic group)
Phase Ii Terrazzo: Yang Zhilin Team
Phase Ii Plumbing And Electrical: Chen Sheng Team