Lighting DesignShanghai Pinko Lighting Design
Decoration DesignShenzhen Wenhua Design
Structure & constructionXiao-Wen Neng's team
ClientJu-Ping Xia, Yong-Shui Jiang
Yule Mountain boutique hotel, an old-fashioned farmhouse operated by a peasant couple in Taihuyuan, Lin'an, Hangzhou, had accumulated excellent reputation during over a decade. However, they could barely stay afloat under the price of 200 Yuan per person which including board and lodgings in recent years. The huge variation of reception volume between the off-season and peak-season as well as the low-quality guests also challenged the couple. For these reasons, the owners decided to transform the physical space of the farmhouse, expecting to enhance profitability and improve living experience for the guests, making the Yule Mountain farmhouse to be a boutique hotel from the farmhouse. Continuation Studio, after accepting the invitation of the proprietors, launched the renovation project with architecture and interior design.
Unlike constructing a brand-new building, transformation of status quo would be more complicated. Baisha village, where Yule Mountain boutique hotel located, is situated on creek Taihuyuan which surrounded by Tianmu Mountains. It can only be accessed through a provincial road, just like an idyllic hideaway. Due to the development of the tourism, scenic spots scattered here and there in the surrounding countryside, along with them, various farmhouse hotels are built to host guests.
The original 4-storey, five-bay open main building was located on the south of the site, facing south and against the mountains. Like the tourism buildings that were prevalent throughout the country in the 2000s, this building was symbolized by the use of imitation blue brick veneers, flush gable roofs and exquisitely carved timber doors and windows, forming the 'traditional Chinese' farmhouse style.
The courtyard was located at the north side of the main building which is approximate 15 sqm, separated from the mountains on the west side by an intercepting ditch. The water from the mountains was drained into the creek by the culvert underneath. There was a bamboo forest in the north side of the courtyard, separating the courtyard from the neighbors, a red-brick building. The east border of courtyard was nearly 3 meters higher than the provincial road, forming a terrace with a 3-meter depth traditional double-slope wooden pavilion and a restaurant as the boundary of the terrace. The 3-meter wide steps were embedded in the terrace, serving as the main entrance of the site and the connection to the provincial road as well. Another two-story dining building (three-story height when viewed from provincial road), which can be accessed by an external staircase, stood in the southeast of the terrace. The façade of these buildings which were arranged along the edge of the terrace showing the height of 2 or 3 stories when viewed from provincial road, and the gable of the main building was even larger.
The creek, which is about 3 meters lower than the road flows, from north to south at the east side of the site. When it rains, the sound of the creek can be heard in the original building. The noise from the road was also audible because of the heavy traffic.
Reemergence of Landscape
With all things considered, continuation studio believes that precious landscape and great terrain difference are the unique sources of this site. However, instead of enjoying the water and mountains nearby, guests still in the hustle and bustle of the city owing to the noisy provincial road, the unclear boundaries of the site and the sealed space setting of the guest rooms. The beautiful scenery became a useless background rather than a valuable landscape.
The neglected landscape must be revealed from the noisy environment and become the theme of the spatial experience. Only in this way, the group of large dimension buildings can have the rationality of existence: It should be integrated into this landscape, unlike the incongruous farmer's houses in the surroundings which show no respect to landscape. — "Reunite with landscape" became the goal of this project.
Landscape, as spiritual and physical sustenance of Chinese people, is the everlasting spatial subject for space creators to borrow ideas from. Gardens located in the southern urban realm, always have sublime landscape inside, separating itself with the exterior carnal world. Looking back to our case here, though stand amid the mountains, the site has been impacted by the closed perimeter, the rough farmhouses and the tumult in the highway to achieve a proper spatial aura.
Therefore, we need to build the boutique hotel into a "small universe" which is independent of external world. Guests need to walk through a deep entrance to get there, after which, social uproariousness would disappear and landscape would be the only thing you live with.
The loose distribution in the site for such large building volumes made the external area to be in a fragmented situation. Also, the site was mixed with highway, vegetable plots and wild forests, which was not suitable to shape an independent and effective locale ambience, accordingly, the first step of this renovation was to redefine the site.
Following the existing height of the terrain, we divide the original external space into three parts: the external provincial road, the inner courtyard and the mountains on the slope. The outermost part includes provincial road, the entrance and parking lot. The raised terrace, as the guiding space for entering the site, isolated site with external world. The inner courtyard which faces the main building is the significant place for creating the living atmosphere. The inner courtyard and main building constitute a hidden axis, forming a 'straight viewing' direction in the site. The inner courtyard, the provincial road and mountain fields are separated by clear interfaces. An experiencing space for various events and activities was arranged in the mountains part, and it is natural to put various active areas on different levels of the slope.
The redefinition of the site differentiates the inside and outside, the primary and secondary as well as the vigor and tranquility, thus, the independence and systematicness of an internal world is likely to be established.
The Deep and Serene Circulation
The circulation of the original entrance was very straight. Guests would cross the provincial road directly to the inner courtyard, piercing the main landscape of the lobby. The process of entering the inner space from the external noisy highway is lack of buffering as well, making it is difficult to quickly involve into the peaceful atmosphere of the boutique hotel.
During the renovation, we keep the location of the original main entrance unchanged and hid it behind a screen wall between the terrace and the road. After that, we transform the steps that were originally perpendicular to the terrace to a staircase that ran parallel to the edge of the platform, and place it under the modern wooden frame. This wooden porch lines along the provincial road replaced the existed traditional wooden pavilion and the detached restaurant, integrating the entrance steps, the pavilion and the new office on the left side of the entrance，becoming a 30-meter vast scale horizontal surface. Continuous timber window system unifies the different functions in the corridor from the elevation; Rafters extend from wood corridor to external space also indicated the depth of this surface, lowered the visual height of the main building. The eaves under the continuous windows effectively reduce the visual height of the entrance façade, and the height difference of the terrace is implied from the elevation.
Entering the porch, the direction of the step-up staircase and the inclination of the roof further strengthen the raise of the terrain and the height of the landscape. The strepitant atmosphere near the provincial road has been greatly improved after several obstacles including the shadow wall, the base of the wooden frame and the stone wall in the middle of the staircase.
Following the step, the skylight overflows through the continuous windows on the outside of the corridor. The provincial traffic is blocked by the lower wall under the window, only leaving the sound of the creek ringing in the ears, guests gradually formed excursion feelings during the climbing, filtering the scenery of inner courtyard through the grilles inside the corridor, projecting out scattered lights.
The design strategy is to transfer the main entrance of the four-story main building from the north façade to the east gable, a triangular area circled by the wooden corridor, the two-story annex and main building. From the staircase to the gable, the circulation has a non-orthogonal turning point, as a result, firstly the deflection between the scarp and the gable is integrated with the sequential boundary of the circulation; Secondly, the external space on the terrace is also divided into the triangle courtyard and inner courtyard with water, which possess distinct ambience and scale respectively; Furthermore, we set up horizontal windows for peeping the inner courtyard from corner on the short boundary where the triangle courtyard and the inner courtyard overlap. Though the tranquility and beauty is unreachable provisionally, it is frozen by those horizontal window frames, alluring guests to approach the yard.
After passing the triangle courtyard, along the gable of the main building, entering the corridor inside the building, guests can see a gloomier space only with reflected sunlight on the floor. Turning right to the reception, standing in the center of the lobby and looking at the courtyard, visitors would face an open and clear sight, totally distinct from the shadowy corridor space: a placid water spreads out under the eaves of the lobby, in which the cloudy top of mountains behind three walls and bamboo forests, the long pavilion on the left side, and the homogeneous timber grill of the waterside pavilion (horizontal wooden frame when seen from the provincial road) are reflected, and a sublime landscape picture is created in visitors' view. The lowered outer-eaves, the symmetrical columns and the bluestone platform present a peaceful living atmosphere with a sense of ritual.
At this point, the whole circulation in the entrance climaxes after hiding, turning, rising, pausing, peering, escaping, piercing and releasing.
With the redesign of circulation, the mountains, courtyards and the main building present themselves to the guests with various landscape views. The exquisite light and progressive narrative scenes emphasize the rise of the terrain, greatly enriching the mountain space with affluent information. From the uproariousness of the provincial highway to the corridor frames of stairs; from the mountain scenes in the side of the provincial highway to the peaceful inner courtyard; from the shading corridor to the mountain scenes, these noticeable alterations in sound, weight, height, and light tantalize the guests, arousing their curiosity and expectation. The multiple turnings also lengthened the psychological distance from the entrance to the main building. Then, an independent small world was initially established in the mountains.
Inner Courtyard and External Entertainment Area
The inner courtyard and the external entertainment area are separated by a corridor with a masonry wall. The themes of contemplation of the landscape and hiking through the mountains are elaborated via a series of contrasts between the two areas: the plane and the ramp, the stillness and the movement, the foreground and the background.
The Inner Courtyard
The shallow pool in front of the lobby forms the main part of the inner courtyard. It explains the 'Emptiness'， meaning Close to nothing in Zenism, and also reflects the mountain and sky in distance. What people see under the lowered porch is the illusory reflection in the water of the illusion of tiles on the original building roof which motivates a poetic landscape to our imagination, as if we are at some illusory land of great void. Meanwhile, the rumble of the water beside the base reminds us the existence of external reality. The reality, imagination and memory are mixed here to jointly set the tone of the inner courtyard.
The circulation in the inner courtyard is set around the pool. The bluestone paved platform is set below the porch of the main building, where the circulation starts and enters the rightward to the tea pavilion which has fine wood grille façade and sloping eaves. The masonry wall under the opposite veranda suggests the location of the mountain forest which is full of wildness. While looking back from the veranda, the fine curtain-like interface of the tea pavilion porch filters out the highlights of the forest on the other side of the stream in the shadow of the eaves.
The sights of people on both sides of the water yard are steered to the pool and the opposite area. The tea pavilion on the waterfront, the veranda, the sky and mountains are reflected in the water, becoming the protagonist of the picture. The horizontal volume obstructs the external interference and cooperates with the view of the distant forest, intertwining with the external Mountain View with and the interior landscape. The four-story main building is obscured by the low eaves so that we cannot see the entire volume.
Only when you walk out from the veranda and enter the water terrace in front of the opposite wall and outside the tea pavilion, the main building can be fully presented. Control of sightlines in this way allows the four-story building to achieve a sufficient viewing distance and retreat retreated after being reflected by the water surface. After the sloping roof was converted to a flat roof, the upper profile of the main building is also compressed within the outline of the south side of the forest. The volume of the first floor roof with solid wooden pillars underneath and the newly added cantilevered balconies on 3rd-4th floor with the two-dimensional slab formation are mutually contrasted. The volume of the main building is fully dissipated and appears to be lighter. The absolute dominant position of the mountain in the overall picture is reinforced.
The External Entertainment Area
The external entertainment area on the side of the mountain was originally a steep slope. We combined the structural requirements of the retaining wall to solve the height problem by stacking small stone pieces to platforms, on which barbecue bonfire area and hot spring pool area are set up for socializing. Functional areas are connected by circulation, and are arranged according to the privacy requirements. The lower end is close to the back of the masonry wall of the courtyard. It is connected to the entrance of the second floor and the semi-stairs rest platform of the main building at high, and links to the three-stage platform with several steps on the hillside. The profiles and heights of the platform are carefully designed, combining with the suspended roof of the veranda, allowing a continuous view between the inner courtyard and the external entertainment area, however, avoiding mutual effect on atmosphere.
According to the view of classic landscape, the boundaries of architecture and nature are never clear and legible, but mutually blends. An empty pavilion, the main subject of Rongxi pavilion of Nizan in Yuan Dynasty, regards itself as a perfect expression towards this viewpoint mentioned above. In order to convey such a concept within the boutique hotel, another strategy is adopted to open up the closed interface of original building, introducing landscape to the inside as much as possible. Meanwhile, an interface system is brought in to deal with the problems of noise on the road and visual/sound interference from other farmhouses as well as the privacy of each room.
Interface of Tea Pavilion
As the bound between site and provincial highway, two sides of tea pavilion respond to the lower road and higher inner courtyard respectively, where distinct design methods were taken.
Outer side of tea pavilion, not only is the main surface facing the road, but a viewing surface to enjoy the creek-side landscape, therefore, we designed a series of continuous fully opened windows which is composed of angle steels and timber grill. One-meter high wall under the windows constitute a part of the base embellished by bamboos, making the base look higher when viewing from outside, also lengthening the distance between exterior space and tea pavilion. When viewing from inside, on the contrast, provincial road and traffic are prevented effectively, leaving the landscape the only thing to behold from interiors.
Inner side interface of tea pavilion is comprised of fine timber grill modules, which hide the column of pavilion from inside view. Pure timber modules and smooth asphalt roof possess a similar two-dimensional interface with fine texture, setting off the beauty of the permeated landscape. When viewing from pavilion, the interface of timber grill filters the water and sky of inner courtyard like fabric, casting subtle shadows on ground as well as roof, presenting a dreamland with blurry periphery.
The Interface of Balcony
The rooms of the original building have no balcony, so guests could only obtain landscape
s from the square window holes. During the transformation, the filler wall of the original façade is completely replacedby two-layer insulation and soundproof glasses, besides, balconies are finally added on the basis of the original frame structure. The number of rooms reduced from 30 to 15 and the reconfiguration of the plan makes each bathroom has landscape viewing. Furthermore, we add timber grilles in the external of the balconies of guest rooms on the 3rd-4th floor, which not only keep out the sightlines from external world to the bathroom, but also hide the scale of constructional elements like balcony structures, doors and windows, shaping a two-dimensional sheet-like interface. The ultra-thin construction and the void structure in the second floor make the balconies on the 3rd-4th floor look extremely light, greatly weakening the huge volume of the original 4-storey building. In addition, the distance between the landscape and the visitors inside the balcony is shorten illimitably.
The Interface of House by the Rill
The dining room of the original building on the 2nd floor is designed to be a separated rill-view room during the renovation. We use the old objects again just like the tiles at the bottom of pool in the inner courtyard. We survey and collect the old carved timber doors and windows which are made by the owners in periods. Afterweather-resistant treatment, they are hanged on the façade of the annex building as the curtain wall system.
Timber doors and windows with chromatic aberrations at different positions arouse the reset of time and space under the influence of environment. It turns out that doors and windows with body scale can also be a façade material, establishing imaginations between body scale and architectural scale.
At the rill viewing side, with the timber grille interface pierced, the balcony of the rill house, like a hole in the megalith, makes up the most recognizable form along the interface of the provincial road. When seeing the landscape from the balcony of the rill house, you will have a unique feeling like you are enjoying the scenery in the midst of cave.
The design of a series of penetrable interfaces including tea pavilions, balconies, and rill house, working as a transitional space between mountains and the interiors. The buffer defines the space from the aspect of the physical experience of guests, meanwhile, it re-establishes a new connection between both sides of the interface with distinct strategies.
Structure and Interior
The original building is a concrete structure, the five guest rooms on each floor equally dividedthree column spans from east to west by 1:2:2 into five. In consideration of the demand such as expanding the area of each guest room and the local requirements for the number of hotel rooms must less than 15, we combine the influence of the inner courtyard on the main axis of the main building to re-arrange rooms, dividing the width into three-bay opens with the ratio of 1.5:1.5:2. Also, we build an overhanging steel structure area from the original concrete structure, adding a balcony to each room which can interact with the exterior landscape.
Meanwhile, we cancel five rooms in the south on the second floor, remove the slab of the two rooms on the east side and dismantle the first floor part of the former evacuation stairs, creating a two-story circulation space, achieving a public space with preterhuman scale. This space is divided and wrapped by the wood-clad wall, leading out two paths on the half floor, respectively connecting the dining room on the back of the second floor and the guest rooms above the second floor. Thus, the area of guest rooms has no effect on the restaurant. An interior space like Escher's Relativity, 1953, allows the conventional corridor circulation shows the profound significance of the bifurcation of the trail, the interior has an "inner building" from which the image of mountain emerges, and has a sense like cave inside the mountain.
The partition in the dining room area is completely removed, forming a multi-span sequential space that facing the mountains. We combine the roof terrace of the outside kitchen and provide an independent space with landscape for the dining room.
We merge four rooms at the western end of the top floor to form a luxury suite with three balconies, plus the rill-view suite in the second floor in the original annex included, the number of rooms is reduced 30 rooms to 15 rooms, which exactly meet the requirements of the local government for home-stay projects. (According to the rules on the construction of home-stay in Lin'an, the number of guest rooms in each project must under 15)
In addition, we remove the roof which was used for storage and the flat roof deck which was lowered at the elevation due to the height of roof cornice. The shortened column is raised with the steel structure, the steel flat roof deck is re-installed based on the location of guest rooms, moreover, two guest rooms on the back of the south-west corner near the mountains are set to be loft suites, which enriches the types of guest rooms. While the roof terrace serves as a private entertainment space of the two suites, the façade profile from the furthest point of view within the site is unaffected.
Through the re-division of the site, the configuration of the circulation, the penetration of the interface, the transformation of structure, also, the adjustment of the interior plan, the formerly ignored landscape reappeared from the outside as well as inside. The boutique blends into the surroundings, becoming a part of the symbiosis with landscape. The prospects are not only being "seen" but also "reconstructed" to some extent.
The renovation of Yule mountain boutique hotel took more than 2 years from the design to the formal operation, more than 1 year we expected at the beginning. This allows us to rural situations under the non-professional construction project accumulated a wealth of experience. Reviewing process, many times we faced the situation that the plan cannot be implemented.
Thanks to the support from owners and the local governments for the project, making this complex 'small' building finally be built. Without professional master builder got involved, owners and designers show complete trust to each other, solving problems including construction mistakes, material replacement, the change of structure and so on. As designers, we also make full use of the resources for this project such as design, materials, construction, post-layout and other favorable conditions. The final completion is about 70%, which is a very lucky result.
Half a year after the official operation, we paid a return visit to Yule mountain boutique hotel, knowing that the occupancy rate of boutique hotel is lower than expected due to the overall environment of Lin'an home stay industry. However, the price and catering feature make the level of income higher than before, and the quality of the guests as well. The transformed space attracts more high-quality visitors and groups, and objectively affects the life of the owners, which makes us delighted.