The project locates in Luchong Area at Cheng River beside the Fuxian Lake in Yunnan Province. As the Fuxianlake is so clean that a famous traveler Xiake Xu in Ming Dynasty wrote compliments in Xiake Xu’s travel notes.In order to protect the water quality of Fuxian Lake, the local government gradually relocated the lakeside residential areas, hoping to reduce the pollution of the lake water caused by human factors. The relocation led to the demolition of the old houses, which also provided the opportunities for recycling of brick and tile materials in this project.
The original buildings of the project is a three-story, half-frame building and four double-story brick-concrete villas and a few one-story ancillary buildings, with a construction area of 2457㎡ and site area of 7790㎡. The area was operated as a low-priced ordinary farmhouse B&B. The following article focuses on the renovation strategies of three-story frame brick buildings and newly-built the Floating House, the ClayScreen, the Bamboo Pavilion, the Rain Pavilion, the Tile Pavilions, the Slope Pavilion and the original walls with slight renovation. All of these present the output of renovation strategies, The eight rural construction styles emphasize thinking and analysis on renovation strategies of rural architecture.
The brick building is a three-story and half-frame building. There were large glass windows in original building, filled with a small amount of red bricks and small white porcelain in façade.Due to the adjustment of the function after renovation, it was the most direct way to knock out all the filling materials and retain the original frame beam and column structure, which leads to reconsider appropriate wall materials and construction connection.
The brick building is located at the entrance of the project, and it is also the image of the street. The brick building is the closest building to the lake in the whole project, which is most suitable for intuitively connecting with water. In terms of site language, we created a series of paths to the entrance revetment and design water surround the building to make the building ‘closer’ to the waterfront. The bamboo basket form of the local ‘water wheel fishing’ culture gave us the inspiration of the building façade. Inspired by the light transmission of the basket and its weaving structure, the building is formed by the weaving mechanism of old blue bricks and transparent glass bricks.
The entire west façade of the building blocks the view of the mountain tombs that can be seen on the west side and the west side without a single window responses the scale of the first and second floor inside the building.
The first floor is the restaurant, where is closest to the water surface. When breeze blows, we can see the reflection of the moving water and tree shadows inside the room through gradient arrangement of half-translucent glass bricks. The reflection responses to the old porcelain tiles on the floor, which presents the tranquility and vitality of a waterside residence. It forms an interesting ventilation system by ejection windows opened on the east and west sides through customized size of bricks.
There is a multi-functional hall in the second floor. Since the second floor of rural building is far away from the ground, it has weaker relation with the ground, we decided to expand spatial relationship inward. The attic space is formed indoors through template pouring technology of local blue bricks to meet the needs of a book bar outside and a conference room inside. A 240mm-high gap was left in the attic, we can see that urban light and shadow refracted by the uniform glass bricks on the outer wall are projected onto the outer corridor, then filtered through the attic gap and projected into the interior of the attic.
The gap in the attic creates spatial cuts at different distances inside and outside the multi-functional hall. The building becomes a time machine, trying to control the relationship between time and space. The ventilators of stair well rest platform from the third to fourth floors ensure ventilation and lighting at the same time and guide the collection of rainwater.
The guest room space on the third floor is semi-enclosed built with glass brick arches at the end of the quiet passageway. It becomes a light generating device by bringing in sunrise light on the east side and sunset light on the west side into the room. The field of light creates gathering and divinity, and it can be used as meditation place, tea room and private chapel for one to four people in the guest rooms.
The light from the ventilator on the fourth-floor guides to the mountain-shaped slope of the outdoor roof. A couple of guests can lie on the slope and look up at the sky when the weather is allowed.
Based on the frame beam-column structure, old blue bricks were replaced as filling materials for walls. 0.24m thick walls were set back with a thickness of 0.12m. The façade is old blue bricks. The masonry structure of the three-story glass brick arch space continues the local traditional practice of old brick kiln. The inner base layer was first enclosed in an arched shape with wood panels, then built with glass bricks. The glass bricks replaced the structure of the bricks after removing the formwork. The ground was paved with broken porcelain tiles of the building glass façade. The tile spacing was designed to be tiled or vertically paved according to the difference of slipping resistance. The luster of the tiles and the glass tiles on the wall form a superimposition of light and shadow.
We usedblue brick as molds to cast concrete slabs in attic space of the multi-functional hall on the second floor. Due to the upper hanging structure, it needed to be formed at one time. After the mold was removed, the different colors of the old blue bricks were retained, and the overall texture was rough. The local old craftsmen used cement bricksfor temporary enclosureas they had not enough molds when pouring the building. It provides the basis for the blue brick formwork, responsive to the blue brick exterior wall and concrete structural beams and columns.A high-strength wall was formed by using brick as the mold and reinforced concrete as the filling material, which is referred to as brick-concrete wall here.
There were three difficulties in the process of manufacturing the brick-concrete wall. First, we needed form the masonry at one time and control well on the gap of the masonry mortar then used the mortar with less cement content for masonry, because it could facilitate the removal of the molds. Secondly, we had to control the time for removing the molds. If the time was too long, the concrete would completely bond with the brick body, and the removal would cause structural damage to the wall. Thirdly, we also had to dismantle the molds in sections and built it in sections so as to meet the demolding time of each. And it was also the reason why the old craftsmen used bricks to make the molds: recycling.
If a building is built with brick concrete walls, it is different from brick concrete building and shear wall building. The actual stress components of brick concrete wall building are steel bars and concrete, and the structure is equal to shear wall building and better than brick concrete buildings. It is a more architectural way when the building is a shear wall one with construction of blue brick technology. And the similarity between brick-concrete wall building and brick-concrete building is that both bricks and concrete are used, but the methods are different.
It emphasizes the sense of strength while weakening the sense of scale of the building by the natural transition between old green bricks and glass bricks on the skin of the building, as well as the fewer window openings on the façade. Take the solitary stone in the lake for example, it completely becomes the transition between nature and architecture. As residence is the main function, stone houses in brick building responds to the residential building prototype, the cave. As the first settlement for human being, the original cave only has the simple function of shelter from the wind and rain and heat preservation. This project was artificially designed with natural ventilation, light and rainwater collection system. It explores the natural potential in the ‘cave’ and presents the poetry of life by the natural exterior moss and features of weak reflection on the exterior wall. You are living in the stone or making the stone outside?
About the other prototype of the building shack, Joseph Rykwert states in On Adam’s House in Paradise: ‘The desire for renewal is eternal and inescapable. The constant presence of social and intellectual tensions ensures that it will continue to occur. People have always gone in search of renewal in seasonal changes and rituals of enlightenment, much like the theorist who reforms degenerating habits and practices by citing primitive shacks. I therefore believe that this approach will continue to provide a template for learning for anyone who cares about architecture. The architecture they care about is a primitive shack, forever located beyond the touch of perhaps historians and archaeologists, in some place I must call the Eden. Eden is both a promise and a memory.’
The Floating Houses combine the living and pleasure from residence and boat. Water is the first element into the site to form a lake. The Floating Houses retain the traditional residence stone as the base of the wall, with a height of 1.4 meters and pre-determined ventilation windows. The upper part supports the 1.4m high rectangular top cover by steel structure, and it leaves a narrow gap of 0.1m high at the top and bottom. The narrow gap was set to maximize the visual width and create an openness between each other. The top cover protrudes from the base at the front and the lower bottom is not enclosed, forming their own separate water view sighting area - the private water courtyard. These above integrates are practical and private and create sightseeing and openness, but lacks dynamic of pleasure. The Floating Houses maintain slope moderately on the ground so that you can see ascending and descending movement when people walk in and out, which creates the dynamic view of ‘boats’.
Due to the arrangement of ventilation windows and the design of roof insulation, air conditioning system is not necessary. The natural ventilation meets the usage requirements of air circulation. We use atomized glassin narrow slit with 0.1 meter high and can open tonature or maintain privacy by a switch on-off.However, natural light still can penetrate into the room through the atomized glass in natural time as there is no curtain inside. The people inside the room will have the original experience of being woken up by sunlight.
Stone is the foundation material for the walls of Floating Houses. Square tube columns with span of 1.5 meter and section of 0.1x0.1 meter form arched door steels and the steels are transformed into square flat-roof steel frame at the roof. You can see the transformation from the aspect of spatial description between the flat roof pattern in the house and the arched canopy of boat, which can also be considered as actually a combination of the structure of house and boat. It is a combination of a boat (upper part) and a house (lower part).
The lower stone blocks were grooved by hand on site with the similar masonry of green bricks with mortar and polished into flat surface. The upper suspending green brick veneers were wet-applied in a seamless gravity stack. The stone material and the green brick veneer present material replacement.
We analyzed and sorted out the site strategy for the complicate residential environment around this project site. There were upper and lower platform with a height difference of 6 meters in the original site. The main building and the security room were located on the lower terrace, and the four villas and attached house were on the upper one. The entire site was surrounded by residential high-rise buildings, usually between 5 to 7 stories without organized construction and renovation, which is definitely not ideal background for the project.
Strategy A, a fence wall will be built to isolate from outside around the project, but wall with ordinary size cannot meet the demands and it is against the requirements of rural planning. Isolation is not the best way to deal with the surroundings. Strategy B, vegetation such as 6-meter-high bamboo forest replaces the fence wall, but it also forms an artificially rigid enclosed area that does not naturally present relationship with its surroundings and is inadequate in size as well. We chose strategy C to shift the visual focus from the interior of the site by building a barrier enclosure between the upper and lower terraces to create a visual focal point within the site.
The setting of the barrier fence leads to the further relationship between upper and lower courtyard. The lower terrace is open to space and the upper one is planted with a large number of bamboo to match the villa courtyard. It makes difference on the experience of the courtyard inside the upper and lower terrace, while nature pushes the surrounding environment to a third level, with slice of bamboo forest in villa courtyard improves the tough relationship with the surrounding area.
The height of the barrier fence was set at 7.1 meters, which was comparable to the height of the villa on the upper terrace. The height difference of the terrace is same as the height of the main entrance building, which matches the courtyard on the lower terrace. We can say the barrier fence is actually a screen fence. From the viewpoint of the buildings on the periphery of the project, the slice of bamboo forest and screen enclosure become a natural extension and a place to visit.
The ClayScreen is 7.1 meters high with thickness of 1.4 meters. It is composed by an interior passageway and an upper viewing platform connected by a steel staircase. We used HW200X200X8X12 I-beam frame system as the main structure. The actual thickness of the single-sided clay wall is 0.1 meters and the 8x100 steel plate was used as auxiliary frame to fix the 60-thick clay block. The clay blocks were fixed by pulling the lock outside and mortar batching inside. Some positions of clay can be staggered and hollowed out according to requirements of lighting and ventilation. We used steel frames to avoid poor structural strength and lack of light permeability of traditional clay. We moderately increased the ratio of slaked lime and used penetrating waterproof agent for surface protection to deal with the problem of insufficient water proofing. The ClayScreen is a wall, and it is also a house because of its internal enclosed space with good ventilation and lighting.
Brick wall=bricks+ mortar +structural columns
Tile wall=tiles + mortar + structural columns
Tile Wall + single-sided steel eaves = Tile wall eaves
two symmetrical tiled wall eaves = Wall Pavilion
It is 0.78m of wall thickness, 3.5m of height and 27m of length. The thickness is based on the width of three old tiles. The length of steel eave is 1.6m. The tile eaves on either side were pre-defined with a 0.24m gap in the middle. The wall pavilion is a freestanding wall if ignoring the thin eaves and is a pavilion if ignoring the gaps in the tile eaves.
The stacking tiles reverses the function of tiles, from drainage to weight-bearing. The completely horizontal nature of steel plates on tile wall eves causes rainwater to drain in two directions, through the gap and the outer tiles. The outer tiles are still for drainage which is the conventional function of tiles.
The roof drains in two directions and it is all collected by drains under the walls on the ground. This also causes the ground to drain a lot on rainy days, which makes the wall pavilion is not suitable for long stay. The wall pavilion returns to nature on rainy days and becomes a rain pavilion.
From the point of view by guests, the space enclosed by the tile eaves roof is an internal space because it provides shade on sunny days while it is an external space by the side without eaves. When it rains, the external space remains, while the side with tile eaves changes to an external space. But if you wear slippers to tread water under side with tile eaves and feel the atmosphere of the rain falling under the eaves, you can also regard the space is an internal one. Symmetrical tiled eaves, similar to the cornices on the outside of two traditional houses. According to this logic, the side without eaves in house is the living space in memory and the side with tile eaves is external space. It can be changed to each other.
Functions: The functional openness of the Rain Pavilion allows it to be used as a space for exhibitions, gatherings, lectures and talk. It is open to the community and can evoke the memory of the past.
Structure: The wall is of concrete frame construction with a 1.6 m overhanging steel plate at the top and a 16 mm diameter reinforcing steel bar drop concealed in the back side of the wall. We used steel plates with 250mm pitch and 60 x 10mm wide/ high to level the roof panels.
How to build the pavilion: The concrete floor was first excavated to plant a large amount of bamboo. The concrete waste was then used to create a strip concrete waste wall in the bamboo forest with two additional shade roofs to provides a place to rest. Due to the consistency of the ground material based on clay and the full coverage of the bamboo forest, the waste wall encloses a waste pavilion that is entirely a part of the bamboo forest. The waste pavilion is a bamboo grove in the bamboo forest and the it does not destroy the freedom of bamboo.
Based on frame beams and columns, the outer side was tied by reinforcement of transverse diameter of 16 mm. The reinforcement which was fixed to the column by steel of 25mm square at the position of the structural column framed the concrete waste which was free to be stacked without mortar. As there is no additional structural reinforcement in the vertical direction, the steel bars show the auxiliary features of the structure and the stacked waste presents a structural nature.
The tile pavilion was built to provide a shade roof for parking lots. There was no physical roof out of planning consideration. The decorative surface of the roof needed to be hollowed out and could only be used as porch of the structure.
The receding distance of the old camphor trees in south row can keep the overall column span at 9 meters in a double-row column span. It attempts to create light and borderless effect by a double-row column span of 160mm diameter steel columns, combined with a steel roof frame structural system. We used truss-like system as steel roof frame, and improved the vertical relationship by replacing the truss vertical support with three longitudinal tendon plates.
We recycled old tiles for roof decoration and used wire tying technique to respond to the slight shaking and ensure not to crack. We first laid a layer of wire mesh on the grooved steel, then had three cuts on tiles. Tiles were tied to the wire mesh by steel wire. The steel wire mesh was 5cm longer than tiles to protect them. The tiles were cut to reduce weight and distributed in different locations on roof according to the force on the steel frame. Not a single tile cut was wasted. The tiles tied to the wire mesh showed a certain angle because the form of the steel frame system was not square, but with a slight oblique angle. When you look up from lower space and can see tiles detached with grooved steel, which shows suspending effect. The non-fully shaded tile construction effectively evades wind and snow loads while allowing rain and light to penetrate the lower space hierarchically.
A professional construction team was essential due to the difficulty of construction of the steel frame system with extremely thin and light components. However, local workers were also necessary because the tile tying was done entirely by hand and they need to be on site to discuss the most efficient method of construction. This leads to a combined method of advanced technology and local craft in different process, which effectively adapts to the contemporary nature of the rural material process.
The SlopePavilion is based on the original slope which provided a barrier-free slope that connected the entire B&B to the upper and lower terraces. A café was built on creativity of the slope after expanding the trapezoidal width of the ramp.
The slope was used as the basis for cutting out the concave platform and upper pavilion at the front end and the convex platform and lower pavilion at the end, with the largest main space of café, the Leisure Pavilion, being constructed in the middle section of the slope. The whole area is composed of a terrace on the slope, a terrace beside the terrace and a pavilion on the terrace.
The slope is only 1.5 meters wide after building terraces and pavilion. You can see the view of mountains and forests on the other side and a hiking path along the terrace, which is covered by trees, presenting the intention of a free circuit of mountain dwelling.
The Leisure Pavilion was built with 3000mm spacing for the column span, 2x2 column span, 1x1 column span for the upper and lower pavilion. The columns were made of very thin square steels of 60x60mm to support the roof steel frame system with a structural thickness of 80mm.Wrapped in 6mm finish, overall steel frame was welded to ensure maximum rigidity to match structural requirements. Due to the extremely thin columns, the pavilion presents a light structural vision, and the finish was done in fluorocarbon varnish to retain the texture of the original steel. The thin steel and special finish serve to weaken the artifacts in the greenery.
Due to the operator's request at later stage, the Leisure Pavilion was adapted to an upper roof that can be connected by a bridge from the roof top(which can be visited by guests) and an enclosed outside building space, on the basis that the upper and lower pavilions would not be modified. The advantage is that the indoor cafe can be sheltered from wind and rain, and it ensures the convenience of food storage as a café. And we also have a terrace on the roof that guests could visit to see the scenery.
The traditional way of living in the mountains, marked by the three pavilions, has been transformed into human-residence relationship of one house and one mountain, with the house as the core. The way of three pavilions is more average in movement of people, while the way of one house and one mountain is more focused. The construction methods of mountain dwellings are summarized into several groups of corresponding words: dig and fill, show and hide, scatter and gather, artificial and natural.
The four old two-story villas were originally eclectic houses that didn’t belong to Chinese style nor western style. and tried micro-renovation for internal and external walls of the building which we called the original walls.
The premise of the original walls is that the local weather is so good that no internal or external insulation is required. Inside the building, the foundation of original walls is the red brick walls that were removed from the stucco layer after original building construction. We used mastic filling and surface sanding to increase the structural strength of old walls and enhance the texture of the top layer. The original walls were added with mastic, a new element, essentially becoming new walls. The original walls are dialectic for time description inside the building, and represents an expression of architectural authenticity in renovation.
The building façade was originally small porcelain tiles. As these small porcelain tiles did not match the architectural style, we stripped all of them and used batch mortar to close the light. We did two layers of waterproofing inside and outside the mortar, which can effectively guarantee the practicality. We used mortar cover half of the column to ensure effective coverage of the waterproof layer in the column brick articulation, so that rainwater cannot penetrate into rooms. We see the columns as decorative and structural ones, but feel that neither at the same time. The new half of mortar cover presents the original craftsmanship and we can feel the harmony of coexistence of it with old half of original material. The original walls here once again make it unclear between old and new, and they present dialectic of decoration and structure in construction.
The eight rural construction styles are the summary presentation of a rural project in a four-years design and construction period. We still have limitation in methods but they were all based on the understanding of construction which is the necessary condition for architectural thinking and analysis. As Joseph Rykwert said, we are always looking back to the original prototypes to re-understand the essence of architecture. And in my opinion the original starting point of architecture technology must be found most easily in rural architecture.