After the passing of the clients’ father, she, along with her husband decided to move into her mother’s home along with their 5 year old son. Because of the increase in family members, the old house needed to be rebuilt to accommodate 5 people, namely the wife and husband, the grandmother, the son, and their dog, Chuanchuan.
“We married early, had a son together and worked constantly. While our son was going to kindergarten, my father became ill and passed away soon. All our lives we’ve been focused on work and taking care of the others around us, so we were never able to enjoy a proper family life. It’s something we’ve really longed for”
This is what I heard from the client during our first meeting together. It is also the reason why I accepted the project despite the very low budget.
The project is located in Pinggu District, Beijing, a typical example of an area nearby large city but with a comparatively slow rate of development. Within the past 5 years, in order to meet rising requirements, most neighbors tore down their old single story houses and rebuilt new ones, often 10 meters high. As such, the clients home is surrounded by massive buildings and lacks direct sunlight or fresh air. Rather than a home, it felt like a prison.
Something we discovered early in our contextual research was that the traditional plan for home building, where a house is placed in the north with a yard in the south, was widely used in the surrounding area. As the reduced front yard played an important role as a passage, in a short span of time after rebuilding their homes people covered their front yards with a glass roof. However, because the gap between houses is so limited, the “yard with glass roof” cannot provide any direct sunlight, or enough fresh air.
We kept a gap between our building and the neighbor’s. A true open air “yard” appeared. An independent building with four facades facing out toward the air takes the place of the so called “town house” which directly touched one another. This was our first “crack” within the design; via the open yard, sunlight would arrive the north wall in winter.
According to local planning laws, new buildings should not be more than 2 floors. In addition, our new building needed to be at a height of 10 meters in reference to that of the neighbor’s. As a project goal, we need to design a building with 2 floors, 10 meters high. It may cause problem if we just divided 10 meters equally in to two floors. As a result, we designed different heights in different areas, high ceiling chambers full of sunlight with clear, far views. Along with low ceilings, quiet and in shadow with plenty of privacy. The spacial conditions vary, with differences between areas facing the urban environment or the “yard in gap”. Half of the building incorporates high ceilings on the first floor, with low ceilings on the second floor. In the other half, low ceilings are on the first floor, high ceilings on the second. This relationship generates a new “crack” existing between left and right.
In first floor rooms which incorporate high ceilings, we kept a distance between walls and ceiling, the 800mm high “cracks” providing possibilities to link various rooms, and make all spaces form a single entity. And in second floor, the 800mm height became a huge desk surrounding the book room.
I focus on “continuity” a lot and try to incorporate it into each of our projects. “House of Cracks” is no exception. As technology develops and people’s customs change, the daily lives of Chinese families have also changed dramatically. The internet and mobile technology has led to a self-sufficient social environment and has perhaps even created a self-centered version of humanity. The traditional family system has collapsed, and the close relationships between family members have quickly faded away. House of Cracks, Variety heights in the building, the “cracks” in between, connect different public area.
The entrance space, guest meeting room, dining room, kitchen, living room, book room, etc., they contrast the independent nature of the bedrooms. An invisible force and logic is formed. Besides sleeping, people are encouraged to meet one another and enjoy life as a family.
All “cracks” which are formed by tectonic logic, provide light, shadow, wind, fresh air, and the freedom of people’s action and view.
Text provided by the architect