reconstruction of a former neglected house
shanghai-based architecture firm wutopia lab has revitalized ‘suzhou section homestay’, a formerly dilapidated house, resting on the shore of taihu lake, china. the design team maintained the original U-shaped layout, designing the west facade as a section to expose the internal spatial organization. therefore, the construction takes shape as a complex of pure geometrical volumes wrapped in a white uniform envelope. the resulting composition seems to be the half of a house, left by dividing a complete courtyard into two separate volumes.
a cavity-like structure was the key element for the design. the architects decided to release the first-floor space and blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor. the upper floors consist of six independent guesthouses, conceived as the ‘organs in the cavity’. the different masses give the feeling that they are hovering above the ground floor. meanwhile, the yard cuts out from the continuous shell of the homestay, creating a tranquil space where visitors can rest and interact, watching the light pouring down from the hole.all images by creatAR images
taking shape as a seemingly cut section
the design team underwent various manipulations in order to provide the final ‘section’ arrangement. they adopted the bottom frame seismic wall masonry structure to economically solve the contradiction between the large space required for public activities and the dislocation of the bottom axis network between the upper-hung room space on the first floor. on the upper floor, reinforced concrete cantilever beams with hanging slabs were added. then, on the third floor, the external load-bearing brick wall was retracted. the reinforced concrete slab on the roof and the outer load-bearing brick wall are connected by wide flat ring beams to help the architect achieve the effect of suspension and a gap created by the outer shell and the inner cavity on the west section. finally, when visitors enter the building from the west facade, they can have a vague insight into the organizational structure of the building on this seemingly cut section.
an independent square pigpen was located on the north side of the original building. after the renovation, it was transformed into a private room of the restaurant. as it was complicated to be visually integrated with the main building, the architects decided to use reflective stainless-steel panels as the facade to make it disappear by absorbing the surrounding scenery, so as to ensure the integrity and independence of the main building. as for the other facades(east and south), the design team sought to maintain a sense of privacy, adding smaller windows. however, an elongated 16-meters-length opening penetrates the east facade, along the stairs to the second floor. therefore, the scenery outside the window is slowly opened as the tourists move. finally, the roof enhances the visual characteristics of the shell and the volume of the entire building.
as for the interior, the architects sought to combine some local characteristics with a modern touch. the ground floor evokes tones of the surrounding landscape, prioritizing simplicity and transparency. ‘I did not place a TV in the room because I would like to create a quiet atmosphere, color, light, sense of closure, and restrictive use of the scenery from my own experience. we are so rich of sound and color in our daily lives that we feel uneasy. I hope all the external devices can be put aside temporarily. the sun will warm you slightly, the air will be a little slow, and some insects will sing occasionally. me or you can do nothing lazily, and then become interested, why is everything silent like a mystery,’ said the leading architect.
the black floor separates the second-floor space, the shell, and the ground to enhance the suspension experience
black volcanic rock clad the ground
clad in reflective stainless-steel panels
openings cut out the continuous shell