The Flowing Garden House / More Than Arch Studio
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Manufacturers : Stream
Origin. The Flowing Garden is radically different from most of contemporary private houses in China. The owners of the house are two entrepreneur brothers. This 3-acre residential land is rectangular with short sides on the north and south. It leads north to the road and south to the sea. There are some existing buildings on the adjacent plots on the east and west sides. A 30-meter-wide municipal windbreak forest belt of she-oak is densely planted between the site and the beach. It interrupts the direct sea view from the site, but it prevents the bad influence from the strong typhoon. The owners intend to build a private house composed of three parts: two independent residential spaces for each brother’s family and a leisure space for gathering, meeting, fitness and other activities. In addition, the brothers hope that the newly-built house would be the space carrier of the whole family memories from generation to generation.
Space and Time. Except for the land to the south, where the ocean is barely visible through the woods, there are no desirable landscapes on the other three sides. The height of the building is limited to ten meters, therefore overlooking the terrain is not viable. Therefore, the design focuses on the courtyard space and landscaping in the interior space. The climate in Southern Fujian is generally warm. Since the ancient time, the use of courtyards has been the normal practice of local traditional residential houses. The courtyard not only improves the environmental conditions, but also creates the natural division and transition between the leisure and residential space, provoking a sense of continuous spatial flow across different areas. Most importantly, the growth of vegetation over time creates a time and memory bond that would probably meet the owners’ expectation of relaying this space to their future generations.
The next issue to be solved is the positional relationship. Firstly, we divide the site into two because its entrance/exit is on the north side of the road. The north side is allocated for the public leisure space outward, the south side is designated for the private residential space inward, and a shared pond is situated between these two parts. Then the residential part is divided in half into two independent residential units to generate a negative space, which naturally forms a ribbon courtyard between these two units. Except for the two-story volume on the north and south sides, the ground part of the buildings is spread out in a single layer. Such a spatial scale is more in line with the theme of the garden.
The internal touring route, like the long shot, is a time thread that links all the spaces. With vague boundaries of the different areas, it allows the courtyard to flow in between the rooms. Step up the stone stairs at the northeast entrance first, lean in under the eaves, and move through a series of contracting and stretching spatial sequences such as the entrance space, the central pond yard, the ribbon courtyard, etc., then pass through the south side of the buildings to the lower corridor that reaches the terrace, until the whole view is fully stretched out.
Scale and Atmosphere. The leisure and residential parts have different functions, and scales of respective spaces are different from each other, creating contrasting atmospheres in internal spaces that are all unique. The leisure space is mainly for public activities, so the scale is relatively open and extensive. But the residential part is more compact, giving a delicate sense of home.
The central pond yard creates a peaceful atmosphere. Around the pond yard, a tea room and a grand dining room with the best view are planned. Drinking tea is a daily habit of the people of Southern Fujian, and it is also their traditional way of hospitality. The tea room faces south and the pond yard, with a platform extending to the water, adding a sense of lightness. The inner courtyard behind the tea room strips away the volume of the two-story building on the site’s north, giving the tea space a sense of transparency. The grand dining room holds two round tables for ten people each so as to meet the need of family gathering during the festivals. It can be fully opened on the side facing the corridor, and its back is connected with the inner patio, which enhances the fluidity of the space and the sense of depth. The indoor heated pool is placed in the basement. The sunken courtyard with multiple openings together with the waterscape skylight above the swimming pool bring in ample light. Furthermore, several guest bedrooms are arranged on the second floor to the north side of the leisure part. The rooms are small but cozy, abound with the lovely garden view on the south. The long ground windows in the guest rooms’ corridors integrate the corridor with the courtyard space. The corridor is illuminated by the scattered light through the continuous skylights, giving the changes of light and shadow in different time and seasons.
In the north of the site, the two residential units are combined into a whole building but separate inside. The respective entrance halls facing the ribbon courtyard are staggered appropriately to create the privacy when entering. We placed the master bedrooms of the two brothers on the second floor on the best south side facing the sea. The first floor contains a residential space including the sofa area and tea break area. The other rooms gradually extend northward on the first floor. The corridor serves as a connection between the rooms, and the view from the corridor is taken through the window openings. In the northernmost corridor, the multi-function rooms of the two units can be used as the independent small dining room, and also be used for painting, calligraphy, reading, playing chess and cards. The multi-function rooms, with sloping roofs, are facing the tea room over the pond yard, delivering the philosophical idea of “water on the roof returning to the yard”. The secondary bedrooms with different layouts are relatively smaller than the size of master bedrooms, but the courtyard and patio are introduced to extend the bedroom space outward. The spare bedrooms that are not frequently used are positioned on the basement floor. The sunken courtyard makes them well lighted and ventilated, which is as good as the bedrooms on the ground floor. In addition, the basement is also equipped with living affiliated functions such as the living room, the home theater, the lounge and the laundry room, etc.
Appropriate Use of Materials. In the Flowing Garden, the shear wall is used as the structural system and the fair-faced concrete is used as the primary building material. The pouring of the concrete wall adopts a small formwork of natural pine wood, and the horizontal wood grain is in line with the horizontal flow of small-scale spaces. Moso bamboo formworks are also used in a small amount in some spaces that require slight variations. After the materials are concise and unified, it turns out that the building itself becomes the background, instead, the space becomes the protagonist, which has a higher value. For the auxiliary materials of the project, a range of warm-colored materials, such as outdoor bamboo panels, brass components, wood-colored doors and windows and grille systems, etc., are used to balance their relationship with the fair-faced concrete, between the feelings of coldness and warmness, as well as the softness and the hardness.
According to the space feature and use purpose in different areas, we select different indoor materials. Such as in public areas like the swimming pool, we retain a certain amount of fair-faced concrete walls without any additional decoration, by using the bamboo materials on the ceiling to balance the tones between warm and cold. For the residential part, it evidently requires a soft and comfortable atmosphere. We only retain a very small amount of fair-faced concrete walls and mostly use beige stucco, sycamore composite veneer, bamboo flooring, red cast-in-place terrazzo flooring and other materials. In addition, the lighting uses the 2700K color temperature light source, which also allows the original cold-toned materials to be covered with a soft, warm color at night. Overall, special attention is paid to the appropriate use of the interior materials. Therefore, a certain balance is achieved between the “warm” interior materials and the “cold” concrete, refined and restrained.
Improvement of Details. For the houses centered with the courtyards, plants are essential for landscaping. The choice of plants should match with the space temperament and be suitable for local climate and maintenance. After the planting is completed, the courtyard space has undergone a fundamental change, and the plain fair-faced concrete wall has also become a curtain for the shadows of the trees. Which is even more exciting is to see the scene of “future generation chilling under the trees planted by the ancients” in some years.
Furnishing is more related to the daily life. We have exclusively designed a series of indoor fixed furniture made of teak wood purchased from Myanmar by the owners. Considering the third-generation children’s need to read and write when they return here for vacation, desks are equipped within both bedrooms. Induction cookers are embedded in two large round dining tables which meets the need of family dinner with hot pot served during the holidays. The fabric choice is primarily comfortable cotton and linen, and the mattresses are also differentiated in terms of hardness for different rooms. The old goods, such as brick carvings, old boat woods, and ceramic jars, collected by the owners in the past have been appropriately integrated into the residential space. We also selected some vintage furniture to decorate the space, besides, we invited our artist friend to create some paintings tailored to the space. Part of the photos taken by the photographer during the construction progress are also framed on the wall, not only for decoration and but also for a meaningful record.
Continuation of Life. The design of the Flowing Garden explores the use of contemporary materials construction to create a modern residential space with the traditional style and spiritual core. The origin of the project’s name is not only from the concrete material itself, but also a metaphor of the flowing space and the state of owners’ quiet and peaceful life. The project’s design and construction have lasted for 5 years. It had gone through a series of adaptations from simpleness to complexities and then from complexities to simpleness, just like a journey slowly approaching the essence of life. Life carries on, which is an ever-changing process. This is what we called flowing daily life.