‘mixed house’ by archstudio
On the outskirts of Beijing, in a typical plain-based northern Chinese village, sits the ‘Mixed House,’ a renovated courtyard residence by Archstudio. The client, currently living in the downtown area, hoped to create a family vacation home and a venue for gathering with friends.
‘The resulting design is an architectural status that mixes the old and new, building a connection between the project and the built landscape of the village. The goal was to let the renovated house integrate into the village with a low-profile gesture, and meanwhile to create a rich and natural small world inside the courtyard house,’ explains the team.
all images © Jin Weiqi
a new wooden structure with a 6-yard outdoor design
The original architecture of ‘Mixed House’ by Archstudio reveals a compound with two courtyards, two pitched-tile-roof buildings, and several flat-roof volumes. After a careful site study, the design team decided to retain and adequately transform the north building, which was still in good structural condition. The south building, an old historic structure, had to be renovated and preserved as well. All auxiliary volumes built for temporary use were dismantled in the process.
Complementing the existing / retained structure is a new architectural addition, built as an undulating wooden construction that replaces the old rooms in the middle of the site. It also extends northwards and southwards to create spaces for daily life use, ultimately shaping a new pattern for the courtyard compound.
the new wooden construction creates a harmonious extension of the original structure
Furthermore, the new wooden volume undulates in line with the old roofs and forms two continuous roof ridges, under which sit large living spaces, including a living room, dining room, and kitchen. In addition, two flat-roof building blocks extend under the roof of the wooden construction, accommodating ancillary functions — two bedrooms, a garage, and a bathroom.
For the old building on the north side, the design team exposed its roof structures and set it up with two bedrooms and a living room. ‘The insertion of the new wooden construction strengthens the undulating layering of the roofs and creates a dialogue between the old and new building volumes,’ notes Archstudio.
using only plywood for the newly built features seamlessly fuses old and new
As for the exterior, the architects reorganized the original dual space to form six yards with different scales, landscapes, and functions. Starting at the front yard, a bamboo path leads occupants to the building entrance when opening the metal gate. Pushing the door and entering the foyer, a courtyard with a maple tree comes into view, displaying a seasonal change of colors and becoming a focal point between the living and dining rooms.
The space between the living room and the south enclosure wall forms a side yard, where trees and stones take over. On sunny days, the folding doors of the living room can be completely opened, bringing the yard indoors. Moving further towards the north, owners can reach the renovated old building where kitchen and dining unfold horizontally, creating yet another dialogue of old and new.
dining room area overlooking a bamboo yard in the ‘Mixed House’ by Archstudio
Between the dining room and walls of a neighboring house, a bamboo yard offers the experience of eating and drinking in a bamboo grove. After crossing that area, the owners reach the backyard, mainly reserved for outdoor activities and connected to a semi-open veranda. Populated by a big tree, it provides a pleasant spot for leisure and chatting.
Finally, the space at the back hosts a more private function; the bedroom area. This part of the ‘Mixed House’ provides a direct view of the outdoor landscape, satisfies daylighting and ventilation needs, and avoids obstructed sight lines. As the studio puts it, ‘the organization of various yards brings natural vitality into every corner of the interior space.’
kitchen area and dining room unfold horizontally
using renewable, recycled, and low-carbon materials
Archstudio built the new wooden extension using cedar plywood as the main material and applied traditional beam-lifted frames to recall traditional northern Chinese houses. By only using plywood, a low-carbon, and renewable natural material, the wooden construction smoothly extends the existing house frame with new structural expressions. Moreover, the undulating new roof is constructed with beams and columns featuring minimized cross sections and maximized spans to ensure a reasonable structure and control costs.
Doors and windows comprise fixed insulating glass and openable frames made of laminated bamboo panels. The solid window frames help improve ventilation, while the fixed glass panes frame expansive outdoor views. Meanwhile, all indoor furniture pieces are customized using laminated bamboo panels.
the newly built enclosure walls are made entirely of red and gray old bricks recycled locally
When renovating the existing structures of ‘Mixed House,’ Archstudio opted to remove and polish the white ceramic tiles on the exterior of the preserved north building to expose its red-brick walls. As for the south building, Archstudio discovered severe damages to its original roofing structures and noticed that its walls were at the risk of collapse. The roof was therefore taken apart to replace some of its old wooden components with new ones. Meanwhile, the walls were rebuilt using old gray bricks, consistent with their original forms.
The ground is paved with new red bricks, better resistant to water and dust. Rooftops are clad in red vermiculite-coated metal tiles, which are lightweight, cost-saving, and have a long life span. The red surfaces of those metal tiles harmonize with the red roofing tiles commonly seen in the village. By creating yards, updating structures, and reusing materials, the design team tried to instill a sustainable design strategy in rural architecture that gently fuses old and new.