The Concave House / Tao Lei Architect Studio

Courtesy of

Architects: Tao Lei Architect Studio
Location: , Liaoning Province, China
Site Area: 5,000 sqm
Project Area: 3,000 sqm
Project Year: 2008-2010
Photographs: Courtesy of Tao Lei Architect Studio

This project, including multiple functions such as residence, studio and gallery, is specially designed for Mr. Dazhong Feng who is a prestigious artist in China. The site is located at the downtown area in Benxi, Liaoning Province, facing mountains which turn into the best landscape view for this project. With the aim of relieving the conflicts between the fast pace of urban lifestyle and the peaceful mind of the artist, this project is intended to create a harmonious internal space and interaction between nature and architecture. The building is neither constructed for public nor purely for private purpose. Therefore, it not only requires a quiet living space for the artist but also a dynamic gallery space for visitors. As a whole the building is filled with profound cultural experience.

plan 01
plan 02
plan 03

Design concept

1) The AO (凹) shape

The building is inspired by the Chinese character 凹, which also means concave. The shape is a cube with all side roofs inclining downwardly to the centre. Three inter-connected yards create the atmosphere that all views are pulled into the internal of the building. This concept also coincidentally matches a traditional Chinese housing design mode. The roofs are designed to blocks out the vision of buildings surrounded so that when people standing at the platform in the middle of the rooftop, they can only feel the sky, the moon light, themselves, and the time passing by.

Courtesy of Tao Lei Architect Studio

2) The inner court yards

Within the brick cube, the artistic creation of the book yard, the bamboo yard, and the mountain yard has made the interior space unique and full of surprise while the exterior is stable and serious. These yards are like Chinese lantern lightening the rooms surrounding them and creating a dramatic atmosphere. This design origins form traditional Chinese building mode and culture but using a modern way of expression and regional criticism to reconsider traditions, which lead to the result of an oriental modern architecture.

Courtesy of Tao Lei Architect Studio
Courtesy of Tao Lei Architect Studio

3) The brick skin

Since the site is located in the north-eastern China, thermal insulation becomes crucial. A custom-made 600mm long brick can solve this problem and the colour makes people feel warm. Being different from the roughness and hard character of the single brick, the skin is specially designed as a translucent coating which has opening grew out and faded away. It forms into a network of tension and blurs the boundary between interior and exterior.

Courtesy of Tao Lei Architect Studio

4) The twin walls

The twin walls create the entrance of the building, also acting as the courtyard walls that clarify the boundary. The inner wall that is parallel to the building uses the same design method as the translucent building skins. The outer wall is solid and draws the boundary line of the site. These twin walls form a triangle water garden pointing to the entrance and the concrete entrance extends out from the walls creating a sculpture-liked space.

Cite: "The Concave House / Tao Lei Architect Studio" 10 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • Herr K

    an impressive building. looks like its worth to check the chinese architecture scene more often.

  • munter roe

    The Chinese always a dab hand at knocking off cheap imitations. Zumthors Kolumba anyone?

    • bah bah

      I see it – I wouldn’t say knock off, I’d say inspired by.

      Don’t insult Zumthor, his Kolumba is endlessly better.

      • munter roe

        Who insulting zumthor? They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    • Marie

      Your comment is banal, with a dash of latent racism.

    • Nicholas

      Roe, you are just too racist man. Every successful architect learned from each other. Even you… yourself, I bet. Don’t mock the Chinese, you make yourself look cheap.

  • joe

    nice project, the craft looks great. just need to fix the glass handrail that is shattered

  • Fudge

    There is some very nice finishing here, though I wonder if it lacks a unifying architectural language. It appears to be an eclectic mixture of styles – varying from Zumthor to Kahn to one I can’t quite place.

    But It does have a certain charm.

    I think I like it.