Starting from the plan layout, we considered adding one bay to the west to reach the rocky mountain on one side, and another bay in the south-north direction to form a wider living space; We used sweeping curvature that rises to create an imaginary space detached from the original projection. Because of the limitation of original height before and badly damaged roof, we added new floors to the original building up to two. The whole roof was covered by grey tiles in an unique shape from a bird’s eye view, which was not only outstanding but also a convergence of existing ancient village. This was the first time to echo the features of indoor space in outdoor areas.
The main indoor space mixed with the external veranda shaped by the interlaced new and old walls. The original damaged walls in the building became sections of interior walls and indoor partition. From the east to the west, the terrace, living room, dining room, kitchen, courtyard, and bedroom lined up according to their privacy. Through the veranda and steps outside, the resident can come from the south into the living room to hold family parties or activities here. Part of the first floor was empty space for a better view; Coming to the right to the semi-open terrace, resident can overlook the mountains and the whole village; From here turning left, resident can reach the dining room with better privacy and the kitchen opposite to it.
As the core of the whole plan layout, the atrium changed from the original indoor space to the new outdoor space. The original wall and old door in the south were kept to show respect to the original memory. As a contrast and echo, we set a brass-made new door with the height of 1.5 meters and the width of 1.2 meters on one side of the old door to strengthen the ceremonial feeling by the huge difference in proportion (such practice is common in the spatial design of many modern churches in Europe). As an echo to the context of copper capital, coming into the room through this copper door, there is a copper-framed dining hall connected with it. We have installed a copper-plated staircase to reach the second floor. This copper flame also carried the original gable in the east. The original gable here became the decorative wall to block the vertical view of the living room and bedrooms. In the north of the copper frame, there was a kitchen equipped with a full set of copper apparatus and the backdoor in the north, where we can go downstairs to the vegetable field under the mountain. The whole kitchen was inset to the wall and protruded out of the northern gable. We combine all the outdoor air conditioners and the copper frame/kitchen protruded out of the gable. From a bird's eye view, we can feel the spatial linkage of the copper sections of the whole building and the continuity of materials in layout design. The main structure and other sections of the building were wooden material, which reproduced the living conditions and cultural context of the original building.
The whole atrium and the landscape under the eave formed the repeating virtual-physical transformation in the east-west direction. At the same time, the suspended stairs and French window in the east formed an open space connecting the bedrooms which cannot be found in traditional folk residences. An array of high windows lined up in the north-south direction separated the two sloping roofs from the walls. The design was to strengthen the floating and modernity of the roof. Another array of small windows together with important fixtures including stairs and master bedrooms formed the line of sight that echoes the contrast between indoor and outdoor space.
Part of the outdoor landscape can be viewed at the entrance in the south of the building. The soft landscape element was aimed at creating the visual gallery with the buildings. Combining with the curved roof, remote mountains became part of the picturesque scene. A gate lies in the southwest. Walking up the mountains, the view of the building interrupted by the gate formed the first scenery. Because of the cliff on the east side was not steep, decoration element of the building protruded s up to 2 meters. Led by the natural steps and plants, the resident can go to the outdoor terrace and green area through the backdoor on the north side of the building, away from the worldly cares and enjoy the countryside and rural picturesque.
All the surfaces of the building were covered by a steel grid. The size of the structural line along the ridge was enlarged to further indicate the twin roofs. In this structural system, the angles and positions of the curved surface of the roofs can be subtly adjusted and optimized in three dimensions using pixel wood batten craft on the surface.
Based on the structural form of steel structure, during construction, the old bricks of the original wall were marked down with numbers and kept aside. After the new foundation and main steel structure had been completed, the marked old bricks were used to rebuild the original wall at the site. In the process of rebuilding the wall, many old bricks were cut into slices and used as traditional decoration for hiding the steel structure inside. (This method is common in order to save the materials of old bricks in the process of recovering and rebuilding the traditional houses) The new wall was built by different types of old bricks from other local buildings. For further underlining the difference, we laid white paint which is common in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and Huizhou on new walls. At the junction of two kinds of bricks, we did some treatment and restored as old for harmony and unification. Using old materials and old tiles collected from other old buildings, the columns and roof of the whole building were built by local craftsmen with local traditional techniques. In this way, we responded to the native culture and the vernacular sustainable concept.
RSAA/ Büro Ziyu Zhuang was founded in 2010, in which Ziyu Zhuang works as the chief architect, and it is one of RSAA GmbH members.
Ziyu Zhuang is a partner of the German RSAA design group which was founded in 1965, operating in Cologne and owning around 80 architects. Based in Beijing, Büro Ziyu Zhuang aims to use the connections from Germany and China to establish a new design vocabulary making use of the resources of both to create a new element of thought, a fusion of European and Chinese architecture. This will create a new and unique style that takes advantage of the two-way system, bringing Chinese influences to Europe, crafting a new line of thought that surpasses the constraints of each individual culture, and vice-versa.
Zhangjiagang Church was awarded Architizer A+ Award in New York City in 2017. Ziyu Zhuang won the Design and Art Achievement Award, one of the top prizes of China Building Decoration Association in 2017.