An abandoned primary school in a mountain village was transformed into a high-end boutique hotel
In contrast to the extremely urbanized downtown, the mountain area surrounding the city center of Beijing is still rural and natural. Located in a mountain village in Beijing characterized by timber frame houses repeatedly arranged and surrounded by high perimeter walls, the site originally housed an abandoned primary school. As a rent property, Domain Architects’ aim was to renovate and transform it into a high-end boutique hotel: MM Farm Boutique Hotel.
Due to the lease terms and local regulations, any addition, subtraction or major change to the original structures was not allowed. The project also hired local workforce for the construction in order to strengthen the connection with the village, while building materials had to be sourced from nearby locations due to COVID-19. The actual construction took only three months. Therefore, the architects had to find a low-tech and light intervention strategy to renovate the site.
As an extremely common construction material since prehistoric times, hemp rope has been rarely used in architecture on a large scale. In this project, 60,000 m of hemp rope have been used to renew the façades while barely touching the existing houses. Through the ropes mesh, the originally orange tiles and walls are revealed in a changing degree as viewers change their standing points. More importantly, the ropes generate a very rich and dramatic light effect inside and outside the houses.
The site is situated close to a reservoir, but it is not easy to be aware of on the site. The architects recreated the atmosphere of a waterfront settlement with a system of public paths undulating up and down in gentle slopes that are elevated from the water. The only area close to the road was transformed into the main entrance. Thus, the first house from the south is used as public and service space. The other three houses are guest rooms, including six double rooms and five suites, every one of them featuring their own courtyard with complete privacy. Glass vitrines equipped with bathtubs or serving as tea rooms protrude from guestrooms to allow visitors to “dive” into the courtyards.
Except for the replacement of roof sheathing and some changes of partition and fenestration, the original houses were almost kept intact. As renovation is an extremely common intervention in today's commercial activities, changes of tenants often result in significant amount of construction waste. However, thanks to the extensive use of natural materials such as timber and hemp rope and short-distance suppliers, the carbon footprint of the entire renovation project is estimated to be close to zero. At the end of the lease period, this project will come to a much more environmentally friendly ending: all the steel will be recycled, and the hemp rope will be buried on site and return to dirt. After helping this project to complete its ephemeral life, all the natural materials used will also return to their life cycles in the natural world.
Location: Beijing, China
Site Area: 3650 m2
Total Built Area: 630 m2
Architect: Domain Architects
Design Team: Xu Xiaomeng (Lead Architect), Wang Hannah, Liu Zhipeng, Zhou Mingdi
Structures: AND Office
Construction: Local Villagers
Photography by Sun Haiting, courtesy of Domain Architects