House G

Shanghai, China

Overlooking house from paddy ©2019 ZHI Geng
Overlooking house from paddy ©2019 ZHI Geng

Background

The countryside of China has in recent years undergone rapid changes due to the national policy to encourage development of rural areas. Large amount of boutique hotels, B&Bs, tourist centers, Instagram-able cafes, bookstores were erected amidst the beautiful scenery of China’s suburb. These tourism-driven projects generally existed as products that add values to developers’ investments and depict a rural utopia. They have recently become the typical model of rural rejuvenation in China.

Original house-demolished ©2019 ZHI Geng
Original house-demolished ©2019 ZHI Geng

Contrary to this typical and utopian model, House G is an atypical mode of rural intervention in the way that it is an architecture designed for a local family, rather than for investors. The design is honestly based on the true and fundamental needs of users and their living experiences. It is a house that reflects the daily domestic lives and activities of the family, as opposed to be a spectacle inserted in the suburban landscape.

Overlooking West facade ©2019 ZHI Geng
Overlooking West facade ©2019 ZHI Geng

Contextual constraints

Site plan ©2019 Interval Architects
Site plan ©2019 Interval Architects
Overlooking West facade ©2019 ZHI Geng
Overlooking West facade ©2019 ZHI Geng

House G is located in a suburban village two hours away from Shanghai. The client is an aged couple whose children lives in downtown Shanghai but occasionally visit. The village has a set of serious regulations governing the design of the houses in terms of areas, height, orientation and etc. Local customs such as superstitions or cultural traditions and beliefs form another layer of constraints.

The two sets of “rules” basically define the current domestic vernacular landscape in the rural areas of Yangtze Delta Region. As a response to these constraints, the house adopted a form that elegantly and humbly exists in the surrounding as opposed to be an icon imposed onto the landscape.

Night view ©2019 ZHI Geng
Night view ©2019 ZHI Geng

It took the form of a linear pitched-roof longitudinal volume that naturally blends in the context. The south facade is elongated to increase exposure to sunlight and views towards the paddy. Extended roof and continuous balconies emphasized the horizontality of the house, which perceptually reduces the height of it, and unifies the two separate volumes into a whole. The overhanging horizontal roof is also an element derived from the traditional vernacular architecture in Southern China.

Massing evolution 1 - original house ©2019 Interval Architects
Massing evolution 1 – original house ©2019 Interval Architects
Massing evolution 2 - elongated ©2019 Interval Architects
Massing evolution 2 – elongated ©2019 Interval Architects
Massing evolution 3 - added balcony ©2019 Interval Architects
Massing evolution 3 – added balcony ©2019 Interval Architects

Hierarchy of publicness

The first level of the house was designed to reflect the mode of communication and living habits of the house owners. The concept of publicness becomes hierarchical and was manifested in various spatial manners. Contrary to a residence in the city or a weekend house of urban dwellers, a vernacular house in the village does not only fulfill the needs to live, but also the needs to produce and interact with neighbors.

Garden ©2019 ZHI Geng
Garden ©2019 ZHI Geng
Landscape detail ©2019 ZHI Geng
Landscape detail ©2019 ZHI Geng

The yard on the South is the most public area of the house. It functions as the official entrance, a place for food production, and a place of interaction. Part of the southern yard are reserved for growing of crops and locally-grown vegetables. The earth still firmly ties to each village resident in terms of emotion, security, reference to time, and food production. Other part of the yard becomes the extension of domestic life from the interior outwards. Benches and outdoor washing sinks are placed at the periphery of the court. They subtly define the boundary of the property and provide spaces of interaction between the house owner and their neighbors. The extended balcony on the second level not only provides shading and protection from rain, but also defines an area for neighbors to gather.

Vegetable garden ©2019 ZHI Geng
Vegetable garden ©2019 ZHI Geng

The foyer of the house is not merely an entrance, but also a leisure space for house owner to play Majong with his neighbors. The living room performs not only as a space of gathering for the family, but also is a religious space to worship the ancestors during special occasions. The second level of the house is the private domain and a place for mental retreat. Washrooms and bedrooms for the owner and their children who sometimes visit are connected by a double-height corridor which spatially extends upwards to the mezzanine on top. A bar table is placed in this corridor to provide a “node” for the family to have cup of tea and relax, thus eliminating the nature of the space as pure circulation.

Living room ©2019 ZHI Geng
Living room ©2019 ZHI Geng

The continuous balconies and terrace is an extension of interior spaces on the second level. They provide a chance to enjoy the great views of the surroundings and a place for family members and close friends or relatives to gather without being disturbed by the neighbors. The small courtyard on the mezzanine level is the most private area of the house and is only used by the family members. It is a place to read, reflect and contemplate, especially for the owner’s daughter who resides in the city and occasionally returns and seeks solitude.

Kitchen ©2019 ZHI Geng
Kitchen ©2019 ZHI Geng
Corridor on 2nd floor ©2019 ZHI Geng
Corridor on 2nd floor ©2019 ZHI Geng
Bathroom ©2019 ZHI Geng
Bathroom ©2019 ZHI Geng
Terrace ©2019 ZHI Geng
Terrace ©2019 值更
Roof garden ©2019 ZHI Geng
Roof garden ©2019 值更

The ordinary versus the spectacle

House G offers us an opportunity to re-think and challenge the utopian mode of development going on in China’s countryside. Should the countryside be the next testing ground for architects and investors to impose and create icons and spectacles? Or should rural rejuvenation be a reflection and improvement of the local needs and habits? House G takes a humble attitude and offers a new perspective in defining the domestic and vernacular landscape of Shanghai’s suburb.

项目图纸

First Floor Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
First Floor Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
East Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
East Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
Section AA ©2019 Interval Architects
Section AA ©2019 Interval Architects
Second Floor Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
Second Floor Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
North Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
North Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
Section BB ©2019 Interval Architects
Section BB ©2019 Interval Architects
Attic Floor Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
Attic Floor Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
South Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
South Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
Section CC ©2019 Interval Architects
Section CC ©2019 Interval Architects
Roof Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
Roof Plan ©2019 Interval Architects
West Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
West Elevation ©2019 Interval Architects
Axon ©2019 Interval Architects
Axon ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects
Model ©2019 Interval Architects

Project information

Project nameHouse G
Project locationShanghai
Project year2017-2019
ProgramResidential
StructureReinforced concrete
Floor Area230 sqm.
ArchitectInterval Architects
Principals-in-chargeOscar KO, GU Yunduan
Design teamOscar KO, GU Yunduan, FANG Hanqi, ZHOU Yi, CHEN Heqiao, YE Changqing, CHEN Jingyi
ClientGU Family
PhotographyZHI Geng

Editing and translation: @Ibo, ©️FULLDES authorized publishing, copyright from the Author, Image copyright from the photographer or Company

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