When city dwellers swarm into the countryside for an exchange of nostalgia, Architect Li Ji brings his childhood memories deep into the metropolis instead, and enjoys challenging himself against the concrete jungle. We are still longing for calling a delightful counter attack from the far-away nature inside our dream, whether or not human being is meant to be locked into the cage of concrete blocks.
The prototype is a ground floor apartment that belongs to a 7-storey residential building in urban area of Beijing. It has standard concrete shear wall structure, common arrangement of rooms, and a slightly higher floor height as a result of backing against the ground floor retail shops. Therefore the ideal sample version of an adventure in the concrete jungle starts.
The architect firstly removed all partition walls. By leaving only the load-bearing structure, true skeleton of urban concrete jungle revealed itself. Large sliding doors break through the boundary wall that originally separates living room and main bedroom with courtyard. Broad and thick plank flooring continues from the courtyard to inside, while a scent of nature rushes in and fills up the interior space, forming an indoor courtyard that flow freely as nature breath passes through the jungle of concrete walls. The boundary between inside and outside, living and nature is therefore dispelled; activities in living room and bedroom become activities in indoor courtyard, whereas outdoor courtyard becomes living room’s extension. Coming home from work has turned into an unexpected journey to be relaxed: when you open the front door after walking through the enclosed and over-decorated common lobby, suddenly you are return to nature.
Some untreated bulky tree trunks with burl set up horizontally in the air, with special made hidden steel joint connects to the tenon of concrete sidewall at the two ends. They form several groups of floating space high in the air, connected by an overhang trestle bridge made of timber and I-beams that flies over the concrete wall.
What else can free our spirit and imagination, rather than weaving a tree house full of bird’s nest fantasy in the air of concrete jungle? A nest where unique dreams could be weaved during night -- that is what we truly want our children’s bedroom to be. Time has proved that not only the owner’s child, but also his every little friend liked the nest so much, that many of them were not willing to leave but stayed overnight. By connecting the tree house to an isolated branch-ladder apart from the common staircase, three-dimensional exploration paths within the narrow space become children’s ideal playground for hide-and-seek. This tree house far away from wildwood has taken its root in the concrete jungle like vines grown on rock.
All furniture and household items are kept at simple and moderate where no decoration can be seen in the house. Broad and thick planks in their natural contour are the main material used for flooring. Each single plank is unique in its form and pattern which speaks of life and dignity of each tree. Walking on timber with barefoot, or making a bed on top of it, is an intimate contact with nature that urges us to touch those timber boards underneath, or the heavy timber beams overhead. Sitting on the cushion against the firewood which leans on the wall is a better lifestyle to stay awake than sitting on a sofa that fits for “Beijing repose”. A fireplace made of a whole C-section iron block provides extra warmness in winter days. The place may not support excess amusement, but it offers the most appropriate home for a peaceful mind and nourishing spirituality.
As such one lifestyle has been grafted onto another, and one structure has been grafted onto the other just like vines grow on trees.
“Olympus is but the outside of the earth everywhere.” If H.D. Thoreau has his words correct, then his cabin can not only stand in the woodland nearby the Walden Pond, but also grows bravely inside the slot of urban concrete jungle.