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ORDOS 100 #36: Preston Scott Cohen

This villa is located in plot ORDOS project.

Architects: Preston Scott Cohen Location: Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China Project Team: Preston Scott Cohen (Design);  Hao RUAN, David Shanks(Project Assistants); Yair Keshet(Model) Design year: 2008 Construction year: 2009-2010 Curator: Ai Weiwei, Beijing, China Client: Jiang Yuan Water Engineering Ltd, Inner Mongolia, China Constructed Area: 1,000 sqm aprox

For architecture, the large contemporary house poses a problem of proportionality and character. Big houses tend to become little buildings imbued with an institutional character. Too often, they are comparable to small museums with interiors more suitable for exhibition than for dwelling.

This house at once concedes to and intensifies this tendency while proposing an alternative.  While it appears to be an unusually miniature, monumental building, it nevertheless provides interior spaces that are unexpectedly domestic in character. The surrounding neighborhood of houses does not allow a contextual sense of belonging.  Thus, the miniature building acts like a buoy – anchored and adrift – without the usual moorings of a house. In lieu of a significant architectural context, surrounded by an arid landscape and subject to severe weather conditions, the house needs to establish its own setting in order to provide an oasis within it.

Initially, the house appears to be a small, townhouse-like urban dwelling with an overgrown roof garden.  In fact, this is the least of it. Below it is a large, rambling entertainment and guest villa, organized around two courtyards.  Between the two is a tumultuous landscape-like form that unmoors the townhouse and ostensibly causes it to lean.

structure diagram
structure diagram

Inside the tower, the inhabitant will feel the tilt.  The building envelope will seem to be independent of the interior, with the stairs binding all levels from top to bottom in a coil-like fashion, leading from the lowest public living room to the garage (the garage is located between the upper and lower houses), and winding its way around the leaning tower all the way up to the private roof terrace on top.

In the villa below, the primary interior living spaces alternate with the exterior courtyards, thus overcoming the underground condition.  A railing/fence surrounds the whole house, protecting it from uninvited scrutiny. Where people are able to look down, from the driveway and entry, they will see the pool, not the living room or private bedrooms. Being skewed, the courtyards create a sense of expansiveness and drift as opposed to confinement or containment.

The house is a rough, poured-in-place concrete frame and infill structure clad in gray brick and tile.  The tower cantilevers from a reinforced concrete base frame that is supported by two large reinforced concrete structural arches and from tension rods cast in the diagonally opposite linear edges of the hyperbolic parobolas.

Cite:Nico Saieh. "ORDOS 100 #36: Preston Scott Cohen" 16 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/18945/ordos-100-36-preston-scott-cohen/>