Valued moments in architecture are manifested through the synthesis of the exterior with the interior. In an urban context,these momentsare oftenpublic and ephemeral, noticed only through the interplay of dappling sunrays, shifting shadows and passing breeze as one strolls down the street. However, sometimes, our encounter of nature can be more intimate and permanent. In thisproject of our design studio, that moment of permanence came rooted in a forgotten courtyard. It is an old tree, the chimonanthustree, known also as ‘wintersweet’. We were immediately charmed and so naturally, our design efforts became focused on restoring the dignity of this abandoned tree. The site is located in a li-long – a typical late 19th century Shanghai neighborhood characterized by the laneways that connect thehistory, buildings, inhabitants and gossips within.Over the years, this Wintersweet witnessed the passage of time while surviving numerous abuses and a lack of maintenance. We want it to be our secret, but more importantly, we want to protect it. Thus, we create a buffer to the laneways, starting with a large glazed door framed in a stainless steel lined porch, followed by a series of spaces that includes a foyer gallery, utility rooms and pantry.
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