- Structural Engineer: Xuewei Zen
- Text Translation: Xuerui Wang
- Client: Ferns · Old City hot Spring B&B
- City: Huzhou
- Country: China
Introduction. Situated in the Southern Yangtze area, the project is located in an old street of Qianyuan Town, Deqing City, Zhejiang Province. The old street retains its narrow spatial scale and is accessible only on foot. The site is 10 metres wide and 40 meters long. It was once the foundation of an old house, which has now collapsed, leaving an old wall intact. The site is long and narrow in a north-south direction, with the western side adjacent to the gable of the old residence. A lane about 2 metres wide situates on the eastern side, and the north side is along the old street. The buildings in the old street are mostly whitewashed and tiled with pitched roofs, common in the Southern Yangtze area. The new building needs to be integrated into the figure-ground relationship of the old street but also embraces a new pictorial expression. It attempts to satisfy the dialogue of old memory and to meet the new metabolism.
The Language of Pieces. In traditional Chinese high-density towns, the walls between households are made high for the purpose of fire prevention, creating a visual character of the staggering height of the façade. In the 1:4 longitudinal site, the walls are also used as a formal language, arranged in three dimensions, resulting in five slightly pitched roofs, ten horizontal high walls, and three vertical curved walls.
Between the Pieces. The horizontal ten pieces of walls divide the long, narrow site into eleven unequally proportioned spaces, either as rooms, courtyards, or equipment platforms. The rhythm of the spatial incision stems from a reorganization of internal needs, with the more centrally located plumbing bathrooms and equipment platforms interspersed among the larger spaces, which repeat three times. In the beginning, there is an inner courtyard and at the end there is a staircase, creating a rhythm of tension.
Beneath the Pieces. The scale of the five-piece roof is close to the figure-ground relationship of the old residential house, covering eleven spaces. Depending on the depth, the double-pitched roofs cover the private rooms and the single-pitched roofs cover the public areas. The eaves rise up to form grey spaces, which become platforms for the rooms or paths.
The Momentum of the Pieces. The columns stand up and the beams carry the load. The originally clear-cut frame system is fused together by the piece-wall, and the vertical relationship is softened by a rounded corner, creating uprightness that shifts to a shallow-to-far bearing. A bending of the force field, and thus a "momentum". Between and underneath the static pieces, a dynamic momentum is created with the pieces penetrating.
The Penetration of the Pieces. The piece penetrates with the momentum, crossing the longitudinal curved wall and cantilevering beyond the fence to reveal its momentum to the outside. The crossing relationship, therefore, needs to be revealed and hidden through the gaps in the façade. Eastern aesthetics are subtle and euphemistic. Intense manipulation is considered inferior. Instead, 'form' is used to express 'momentum', and 'momentum' is used to express 'force'. The penetration of force is euphemistically expressed.
Epilogue. As a shelter, architecture often needs to stand in a rigid position within its surroundings. Yet the internal space needs to be softened to the body's sense and touch. The "Le poème de l’angle droit" is the ambition of modernism, while the softness of the curve is the deep affection of oriental aesthetics. Architecture needs to be pure because it is sincere, but sincerity is no match for warmth. The poetry and philosophy of the East is a softened sincerity, not pure, but migratory. The new architecture is wrapped in the old city, leaving three small inner courtyards as windows to the old times: in August, lingonberries cover the walls with light and shadow flowing. Time etches the old walls, turning them into a warm reality.