The project is at the south of a small river in Rudong County of Nantong City, a traditional town in southern China. The site is a typical square rural homestead. On the west side, there is a diversion ditch connected to the river in the north; on the east side is a two-story house for the neighbor’s own use; on the south side is a large area of open crop fields; and the rural roads on the south side of the crop fields are used for daily routines.
The original old house was a single-story brick house. Because it was in disrepair for a long time and the area was too small to meet the owner's needs, the owner decided to rebuild it. The owner is a middle-aged man in his 40s. He hoped that the new house would be used as a daily residence for his parents and become a place for three generations to gather during holidays. Considering the beautiful Yangtze River Delta countryside, after continuous communication with the owner, we decided to build a rural residence that satisfies the needs of contemporary living and matches the rural lifestyle featuring classic characteristics of Yangtze River Delta based on the original rural texture.
We always believe that architecture is a powerful tool for coordinating the relationship between human and environment. Architecture must respond appropriately to human needs and changes in the natural environment, and act as a bridge between the two, and finally achieve a new balance between them. With the development of time, good architecture can adapt to possible changes in a longer period and promote a new balance. Therefore, we started from the needs of contemporary users and studied the impact of their lifestyle changes on space. At the same time, we investigated the active role of architecture in the interaction between people and the environment. Based on that, the consensus in the traditional concepts of the group was presented in a certain form. After analysis, we believed that after the last decades of development, the traditional introverted and closed rural life mode has already transformed into an outwardly open state. The nave that once located in the ceremony center has been replaced by a warm living room, but the intimacy and dream of the nature embedded in the body of every Chinese are always strong.
Based on the architecture’s role as an intermediary balance, the following three strategies were adopted in the design:
1. Interchange between inside and outside - Recombination of "inside and outside" functions based on the transformation of living patterns
The original inner living courtyard and the ritual nave have changed in a modern context. The original living space has been externalized to form the outer courtyard of a modern house, and the ritual nave has become the center of family daily life.
2. Integration of inside and outside - Space creation based on the close symbiosis between nature and human
Three courtyards were inserted based on the rational layout of residential programs, connecting the external courtyard with the internal living space to form a state of mutual integration.
3. Translation of inside and outside - Abstract expression based on the form of natural landscape
The external natural landscape becomes the paradigm of the internal human settlement environment. The Chinese people's love for natural mountains and rivers and the concept of harmony between human and nature were used as the prototype of the roof form to create a new residential house that fits the contemporary aesthetics.
We paid a lot of attention to the design of the north facade to eliminate the negative use of the north water bank as just an area with piles of sundries, but instead establish a new dialogue with the environment and stitch the relationship between the site and the water.
Light and shadow are symbols of time going by. Through the detailed design of gray bricks and white walls, a new rural scene combining tradition and modernity was created.
Through the turning of the internal path and the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the courtyard, we created a richer spatial experience in the small building.
Before China implemented the reform and open-up policy, more than 70% of Chinese people lived in rural areas. Even in the current period of rapid urbanization in China, contemporary villages still play an important role in modern Chinese life, because more than half of contemporary urban residents once lived in the countryside. Paying attention to the needs of contemporary people, balancing the relationship between people and the environment, and continuing traditional cultural concepts are the responsibilities of rural architecture. In addition to providing living places, good rural buildings can retain their traditional memories about "nostalgia", and also provide a medium for the real revitalization of countryside, and offer a guarantee for the development of people and a better life.
Zhong Botao is a class-1 Chinese registered architect as well as an associate professor at Shenzhen University. He got a bachelor’s degree in architecture at South China University of Technology and later finished his M.Arch. education at Shenzhen University. So far, he has led a variety of projects, including schools, university campuses, urban complexes, residential buildings, high-rise office buildings, neighborhood planning, rural planning, etc. In dealing with each project, he regards architecture as a solution to practical problems. Based on the essence of architecture, he pays attention to the interactive relationship between human and space and ponders upon architectural design from the perspective of temporal context. In the process of approaching projects, the duel identities of a registered architect and a lecturer at the school of architecture always prompt him to critically look at the existing designs.
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