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66 lanman hutong



Building Conditions

No.66 Lanman Hutong is a typical courtyard that is occupied by many households. This renovation project started with two traditional houses and one privately-built house. The traditional houses are located to the south and are built with timber roof structures that rest on lateral brick walls.  However, there is only lighting from the north, without any southern sunlight. The privately-built structure is located to the north and needs to be reconstructed. The project is deeply rooted in the courtyard that one needs to take a 50m walk in order to get there.


Building Programs

West house is reserved for the host while east house is reprogrammed for their son's home and studio. The house to the north is designated as the dining room that can be shared by both houses. Independent privacies and communications are equally considered.


Architectural Design

West house was inserted with a volume that extends the living space from within. The interior space is reshaped by programs that are situated along the edges, such as a triangular cabinet, a sitting window area, and a bathroom. A small kitchen volume is attached with this living volume via a transparent roof canopy at the top, separated by a public passageway. The official living space is fully deployed on the ground floor of the west house, with an atrium space that separates the two. The atrium holds the vertical staircase that leads to the bedroom on the mezzanine level, as well as the opportunity for natural lighting and ventilation. A full-height curtain can be closed in order to achieve absolute privacy for the functions within the house.


A full rectilinear volume is inserted into the east house, partitioning it into a studio on the ground floor and a bedroom on the second floor, maximizing its space potential. A large working desk dominates the studio space to the north, with a wide open glass window looking to the north wall. A foyer is located to the northwest corner with a cabinet that stretches along the west wall. The east and south walls are equipped with open shelves and cabinets that hold miscellaneous office items. A metal staircase spirals up at the southwest corner. Surrounding the old date tree that grows to the east of the house, a volume is inserted to hold a small tatami space that overlooks the tree and a bathroom that can be closed off entirely. This volume also serves as a small terrace that can be accessed from the east window of the bedroom on the 2nd floor. The bedroom space are well lit and ventilated with three windows that open to different directions: a dormer that opens high up to the south, a vertical window that opens to the east, and a horizontal window that opens low to the north. 


The dining room to the north is very close to the east house, with only a 1m wide public passageway. It's impossible to get light through a wall mounted window, however big it is. As a result, the south wall of the dining room is completely sealed off for service area, open counter and cabinet as such, with only a 750 square opening for ventilation. Rather, a full-sized clerestory window is introduced to get full access to natural light to the south. This 3mx1.1m single-paned window not only brings maximum light to the space, but also frames the sky, the old tree, and the roof of the traditional house into the picture. A trio of high windows is located to the north wall. An entrance door and a small high window are opened on west wall, the latter of which brings the tree canopy in the neighboring courtyard into the view. With all these different views, the dining room has become a spiritual citadel in the family activities rather than merely serving as a place to dine.


Construction System

There is little challenge to building structure and materials since the construction is on a strict budget. The traditional houses are built with timber and bricks. All other additions are constructed with steel frame structure with bricks as infill. The roof slabs are cast in concrete. The exterior walls are fitted with insulation panels that are applied with plaster and grey paint finishes. Windows and doors use aluminum extrusion systems and double insulated glasses. Interior floors are finished with either bamboo or self-leveling cement.


Spatial Surprises

Unexpected spatial surprises came up after project completion, though it all started with an effort to resolve functions for daily uses. The south wall of the dining room provides a tranquil background for the workstation of the studio. The shadow of ending tiles on the eave of the traditional house is projected onto this wall with daily and seasonal changes. The public passageway is completely opened up with a setback on the clerestory window, bringing the tree canopy in the neighboring courtyard into the space. The north window to the studio, together with the north wall, privatizes the public passageway visually, transforming it into a small courtyard space. One can only realize its publicity when someone is passing by: an interesting blur of what's public and what's private in a courtyard house. The historical occupation of the courtyard renders its fabric so organic that the complex shape of the plan is beyond design. Together with the oblique line of the clerestory window, this shape becomes a 3-dimensional boundary that is consisted with traditional and modern building edges.  The old date tree is brought into the picture. There surprises can only be found in a complex courtyard renovation project such as this one.

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