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Deep Courtyard Winding Paths

Aileen 2017-04-13 15:19

The core area of Dali is the Dali Dam - the extensive eld between Mount Cangshan and Lake Erhai. Several natural villages are located in this area. Although they are the products of the natural area, there is some logic hiding behind this nature. Maybe the way to create a bridge between newborn construction and ancient villages is to nd the hidden logic of these villages.

This is a private residence for the painter Meng Zhong and his wife. The homestead is located at the edge of a village in Xizhou town. The broad eld faces east, and other three faces look out to neighboring cottages.

The proprietor chose to build his house in Xizhou because the historical structures of the Bai ethnic minority are well preserved here. It is a source of creative inspiration encompassing ethnic culture, historical marks, and natural scenery - an especially valuable source of inspiration for the artist when he is creating.

“At the design stage, this painter, who is also the proprietor, showed me his traditional Chinese paintings which are particular about poetic imagery and intended blank embodiment. I could see his expectations about the house from these works.” Zhao Yang, the designer of this residence explains: “The house’s name Zhu An is actually eponymous with his study. It had been de ned at the beginning of this project.”


Throughout the process of the project, Zhong played a decisive role on con rming the design paper and subsequent landscaping arrangement. The proprietor had painted the design paper before the designer even discussed the details with him. “The proprietor may not know much about the speci c design, but he was clear about the atmosphere of the house. For instance,to achieve the best landscape by arranging the birds, stones, and owers, he offered great ideas.” Zhao said, “In addition, this site is very huge but there are only two people living here. However, they are used to living a puri ed life, thus they don’t need many rooms. Then I simpli ed the rooms and changed the house into nine different-sized courtyards; and nally,I designed a residence that is close to landscape-style. This inspiration of design came to me when I visited the residence of Jeffrey Bava in Sri Lanka. a few months ago. There is nothing special in terms of the architecture of the residence from the outside, but I was amazed when I entered it. Each functional area was linked with courtyards that were full of characteristics and amazing views. The proprietor was attracted by the plan of Mr. Bava’s residence when I showed it to him. Then we just drew a preliminary sketch after discussing some questions. We also visualized lots of ideas about each functional area of the residence.”


The residence is divided into the hall, the atria, the atrium and the backyard. The backyard is a private area only used by the proprietor. Nine different-sized courtyards shorten the scale of traditional courtyard residences and connect with a series of functional rooms. There are two 180-degree rotations at the entrance in the southwest that lead the visitors to the courtyard in the south. “We encountered some problems on designing the entrance,” Zhao recalls, “to enter Zhu An, you must walk from the west to the east and go through a narrow alley. The most direct way of entrance design is to open a westward door, but it was improper. Or we could open a northward door, but it contradicts with the east west direction standard because of the terrain of Mount Cangshan and Lake Erhai in Xizhou Dali. After discussing with the proprietor, we decided to let people rotate 180 degrees rst, then they could push the door and rotate another 180 degrees and get into the internal court. Then we could follow the local tradition, opening up an eastward door.” This is the most direct impact of the local village culture on the building design.


As a direct path into the private areas, you can glance at the water in the atrium when you pass the westward gallery. Viewing from the living room, there is a wide range of rice eld in the east, a pool in the west. You can also see the neighbours’ tiled roofs above plants and rocks in the westward gallery courtyard. Four different-sized and different directional courtyards surround the private areas. So, the sunlight could shine in the house from different directions. People will be aware of changes in the weather over the course of the day. One of the most important things in architecture is to build using the local materials. The wall paint of Zhu An is called Cao Jin Bai - “grass stiffened white”, which is a common and cheap facade material in the local area. This paint mixes lime and cob, forming a great sense of white.
It may leave a trace of moss and rain on the external walls years later, but on the contrary, the trace could mix the buildings and environment together.

“The people who have good nancial circum- stances will build their own house in the village as well. But maybe their understanding of architecture is limited. Nowadays, they that have seen Zhu An and other designer houses, maybe they will change their minds about architectural design,” Zhao muses. “It can be seen that village culture not only affects architectural culture, but also that grounded architectural culture can in uence the local village culture.”



Architect and Founder of Zhao Yang Architecture Studio

He was born in 1980 in Chongqing. In 2005, he received a Master’s degree in Architecture from Tsinghua University and established Zhao Architecture Stu- dio in Beijing two years later. In 2010, he won a Chinese architecture award in WA, World Architecture. In the same year, he studied design at Harvard UniversityGraduateSchool,receiving a Master’s degree in Architecture. He was elected as an outstanding graduate of Harvard University.

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