- Client : Zhong Meng, Yi Wen
- Cost : 2,000,000 CNY
- Design Team : Yang Zhao, Peigen Shang
- City : Dali
- Country : China
Text description provided by the architects. This is a house designed for a painter and his wife. The site is located on the eastern edge of a village, next to rice fields. In common with the inward-looking character of courtyard houses in the village, the new house has an introvert character. Lime mixed with pieces of straw—a very common form of rendering for external walls in Dali region—also helps relate the new house to its context.
Inside, the house is divided into the private quarters of the resident couple to the north, and a series of living areas and accommodation for a guest and a live-in cleaner/cook to the south. Nine courtyards of varying sizes reduce the scale of the traditional courtyard house and to match courtyards with various rooms. The circulation through the main parts of the house develops as an alternation between spatial compression and spatial dilation. The entry sequence in the southwest involves two 180-degree turns that bring the visitor to the southern courtyard. A long corridor offers quick access to the private quarters, with a glimpse of the central shallow pond halfway.
From the southern courtyard one can walk undercover past an enclosed dining area towards the pond. A storage room obscures the size of the main living area, with views out to the eastern fields as well as to the central pond and, above the plants and rocks of the western passage, to the traditional tiled roof of the neighboring courtyard house to the west. The private quarters are organized around four courtyards of different sizes and orientation. This variety continues the attempt to introduce daylight from the east and the west in the rooms, so that the atmosphere of various spaces will be appreciably different at different times of the day.
Structural elements of the house are kept out of view by setting the thickness of walls to 200 mm so that columns and in-fill walls are indistinguishable once they are rendered. The maximum span of 8m on one side of the southern courtyard required a beam that is 600 mm deep. However, this and other beams of various dimensions are kept unobtrusive by placing them above rather than below roof slabs. By subordinating structural expression, light and spatial effects, and the client’s collection of furniture are allowed to draw one’s attention.