Text description provided by the architects. Led by head architect Li Daode, dEEP Architects has renovated a traditional folk house in Pumaidi Village, near Niu Bei Shan mountain, in China's Sichuan Province, turning it into both a space for local volunteers as well as a hostal. Incorporating both the old and new, the Cattle Back Mountain Volunteer House makes full use of traditional, local materials, while also implementing a digital design strategy.
Despite the large influx of visitors to Niu Bei Shan every year, the infrastructure and social support of the area is severely underdeveloped. Like most suburban areas of China, Pumaidi Village is mostly populated by children and the elderly, while the working adults live in the city. As a result, the traditional village, though harmonious with its pitched roofs and green tiles, is in need of maintenance. The new project will house volunteers who are maintaining the village, in addition to acting as a youth hostel to balance costs.
Prior to the renovations, the building was a traditional folk house in a state of disrepair with a wooden pitched roof and broken tiles. The front platform – referred to colloquially as a Bazi – was heavily shaded by the thick walls surrounding it. Though there was a rooftop loft, it was in poor condition, and there were no kitchens or bathrooms inside. To the south of the Bazi, there was a single square, brick house built by farmers that was neither appropriate for the surroundings nor earthquake-resistant.
The renovations strengthened the existing internal wood structure, removing the thick walls surrounding the Bazi to create a public space for people to gather. A steel-net-framed glass wall is used to store firewood and can be opened completely to remove the boundary between exterior and interior. A kitchen and bathroom, containing the only flush toilet in the entire village, were added to the rooftop loft. A wooden pavilion with a tiled roof to shelter people from wind and rain has replaced the brick house to the south of the Bazi. By maximizing use of the Bazi, the project improved basic programs and functions, made the design more open and capable of serving more people, and blended the surrounding traditional culture with structural innovation.
Stone walls, pitched roofs and green tiles come together in a new way, creating an organic roof shape along the main façade, merging with the mountain and clouds at its background. The internal spaces are "a brand new expression of wood structure in digital times," and utilize a new, bamboo-based fiber composite produced in Sichuan that is strong, resistant to moisture and fire, recyclable and environmentally friendly. Producers of the material participated heavily in the project, and were involved in on-site sampling, the pre-fabrication in factories and manual adjustments.
“The weaving roof and the mountain, along with the clouds at its back are connected aesthetically, and we hope this connection can extend more spiritually. When travelers, volunteers, or even villagers approach from afar, looking at this unique and familiar building shimmering with warmth, they are then seized by the feeling of belonging, like a long drifting ship in the ocean spotting a light tower that gives them immediate courage to move forward,” said principal architect Daode Li.