Text description provided by the architects. A gentle recluse, this six bedroom lodge nestles in the cool wooded hills of NanShan high above the heat of busy Chongqing City. The project, initiated by a group of Chongqing residents, builds on the rising demand for casual ‘MingSu’ culture and ‘slow life’ which is expanding as counterpoint to the Chinese 24/7 work pattern in fast-growing cities.
Accessed by a winding path, the site is on steep and fertile terrain typical of Chongqing with fine views of unspoilt hills and indigenous forest, and has tall trees, abundant bamboo and small fields. Working closely with this special site, we have kept and adapted an original adobe farm house, rebuilt a newer building behind, added platforms and re-landscaped to create relaxing indoor and outdoor spaces. There are sitting rooms, small dining rooms, six diverse bedrooms, majong and activity rooms designed for families, groups of friends, individuals or quiet work.
Working with views of nature has been our starting point; each of the spaces have distinct framed views out of the building to trees and hills beyond. Here is the timeless human condition where we are both immersed in nature outside and safely sheltered within. This condition is so beautifully expressed in the lonely pavilion in landscape so often found in classical Chinese painting. And it is also a primary phenomenon in architecture, where the porous boundary of the building touches its context. In this project the careful placing of openings is made both from an external view point and whilst considering internal uses.
How do we balance shared spaces, semi-private spaces of the dining rooms and platforms with the quiet privacy of bedrooms in limited (600sqm) internal floor areas? The direct solution of using separate external staircases gives sense of separation, whilst those spaces are still visually combined into a whole. The building is planned as two wings, each with platforms extending outwards and into trees and bamboo. Between them a natural water course is exaggerated as a planted wet landscape. Here deliberate moves articulate and enrich the plan with subtleties of division through simple means.
Not least, our focus has been on the authenticity of the adobe farmhouse and questions on how to re-plan, insert new stabilising structures, and openings, repair the roof and otherwise make best use of the original – locally sourced - material of the walls which have so much character. The new building – conceived as a ‘carved’ modern setting for the farmhouse between it and the steep land outside the site – is simply painted blockwork. This passive approach for the new building emphasizes the adobe material, which is finally cleaned and sealed to bring out the lustrous, tactile and cultural qualities of this wonderful material.
Contrasting space in the project - the natural, ancient farmhouse and modern architecture – is bound together through carefully balanced massing, similar proportion and material for doors and windows, internal connections between old and new, and a series of interconnected landscaped treatments.