Text description provided by the architects. Located in a courtyard (siheyuan) of hutong in Beijing, this is a rental housing renovation plan designed for a couple and two cats. Known as zayuan, the previous courtyard was subdivided in order to accommodate several different families. Modifications and extensions to the original buildings gradually occupied the once public space, leaving only a passage now. Entering from the northwest corner of the zayuan, one finds the project at the southeast corner after passing through that narrow passage (Figure 1).
In an only 19m2 space, the architect has dealt with the common problems of zayuan, such as ensuring ventilation and lighting, reducing the uneasiness the cramped environment engendered.
The architect kept the original roof and removed the rest. The north and south walls were opened respectively to ensure ventilation and lighting. Half of a box-shape space and a layer of floor were embedded to extend the living space.
As the plan shows, the 2nd floor performs the private functions, which uses the raised height to guarantee privacy; the 1st floor performs the rather public functions, maximizing the openness of the exterior wall. An unobstructed space was created from the courtyard passage, running through the first floor of the interior space and extending to the southern yard. By coexisting visually, the aisle in the first floor and the passage of the zayuan successfully avoid the binary conception of indoor vs. outdoor, effectively reduced the uneasiness that zayuan usually causes.