Chinese courtyard houses are one of the most common housing typologies spanning all the way from the northern capital of Beijing to the poetic southern cities Hangzhou and back to the picturesque regions of Yunnan. Typically referred as heyuan, these courtyards homes are simply a “yard enclosed on four sides." Traditionally, heyuans were large single-family homes, built to house multiple generations of descendants, thus the essential gathering place for micro-communities. Today, however, many heyuans in China are faced with the challenges of encroaching urban development. The national reforms of the 1950s divided up many existing courtyards to be occupied by multiple families and groups, exhausting ancient sanitation systems nationwide. These practical circumstances together with market-driven conditions have sparked a renewed interest among architects, to upgrade the conditions of these ancient courtyards and explore the spatial and conceptual possibilities of the typology within their fast-changing urban fabric.
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