Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
ChangGe Village Farm House Remodel Project in China by Evolution Design
April 19th, 2018 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Evolution Design
The project is situated in ChangGe Village, Daxing County, in Beijing’s southwestern suburb. Subject of rebuild is a worn-out farm house built in the early 1970’s, with its original wood-brick structure commonly seen in north China’s country side. Before the remodel, inside the dim and shabby house (or a shack to be more exact), walls were coking dark, covered by more than 40 years of hard cooking smokes & ashes. The place had no water supply nor a restroom – its residents, a senior farm couple, needed to walk out 100m around the house to get to the closest loo in the neighborhood. The house’s long but narrow courtyard facing south functioned as a pathway for the family’s only transport vehicle, a three-wheeler, which was inconveniently parked in a dead end. Even worse, interior floor elevation of the house was almost 20 cm lower than the courtyard, turning the house into a flooding pond whenever it rained, a safety threat to the entire building structure. Ironically, the area was troubled by water shortage – water gets cut off almost daily, sometimes during peak evening hours.
The remodel project was one episode of BTV’s live television show series called “Our Warm New Houses”, newly rolled out earlier this year. The show producer set up specific but stringent requirements on cost and construction speed. Design and construction needs to be completed in 45 days. All-inclusive budget is capped at 300,000 RMB (about 45,000 USD), including labors and materials on field work, site remodeling, interior construction, lights and fixtures, furniture and interior decorations, even purchasing new home electronics.
To solve the core water issue, our architectural design process thoroughly considered the challenges of both water shortage and flood control. First, we elevated the interior floor, adjusted exterior courtyard ground level and installed new sewer & gutter systems. In addition, a new water tank with a capacity over 2-cubic-meters was built at one end of the courtyard, to harvest & recycle rain water collected from the rooftops. In the evenings when water gets occasionally cut off, collected rain water could be used as a supplementary water source for toilet flushing or to satisfy other essential needs, for up to a year. At the same time, with water drainage now in place, the building structure stands strong even in pouring rain.
In terms of functional layout, we have made adjustments to re-organize the floorplan based on detailed communications with the residents, understanding their daily routines and habits.
Outside the house, we first re-located the parking area of the “three-wheeler”, from the inner-most end of the courtyard to outside of the gate, so the courtyard could be fully utilized, and not having to worry about its pathway function. We then planted bamboos & lavenders along the neighboring wall by the south side of the courtyard facing the house, creating a relaxing and serene landscape to be viewed from inside.
Inside the house, by custom, the locals particularly dislike windows on the north wall, so we have carefully accommodated this by moving all the storage function to the north side of the house, while taking the daily activity function to the south side where it is also better lit. As the house layout takes the shape of a narrow rectangle, with the long side oriented north and south, the middle part of the house is better suited as a common area. It also separates the resting areas for hosts and guests, allowing for better privacy.
After elevated the floor for flood control, the building height is only 2.1m. So we removed the suspended ceiling, to allow for more space. Then, after some cleaning and maintenance work, the original wood structure and straw-covered ceiling texture is finally revealed, telling a story of time.
Originally, one side of seven structural columns were partially exposed to the exterior, which could potentially become a safety issue given their age. We have managed to push out the south side exterior wall by 50 cm, so the columns are now behind the wall, protected against wind and rain; a source of natural beauty, these wood columns themselves seamlessly become part of interior decorations.
During site survey process, we discovered a narrow pathway about 80cm wide between the west side of the building and neighboring wall. So we designed a view window at the end of the corridor toward the west side. Outside the window, swinging bamboo shadow helps to connect the interior space with the natural environment.
In terms of furniture selection, we preserved the resident’s existing furniture whenever possible, and gave them new lives. Two large clay water jars now function as an umbrella stand and a side-table, a torn wood bench is polished and placed by the end of the bed to stow clothes and linens; even the wood lattice door, once about to be thrown out in to garbage, become folding screens in the main bedroom.
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