by Sunena V MajuSep 26, 2022
China-based architectural firm ARCHSTUDIO approached the much-needed revamp of the Qishe Courtyard with the intention of ‘renovating the old and inserting the new.’ Located in a hutong (narrow streets formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences) inside an old quarter of Beijing, the project integrates the old and new as a whole to meet future needs, including a functional living space and a traditional aesthetic; the execution is brought together by resourceful and sustainable methods.
A Siheyuan translates to a quadrangle and is a traditional typology of Chinese residences – typically a courtyard surrounded by houses. The project is called Qishe as its address number in the hutong is seven (Qi means seven, and she means house), and earlier housed seven pitched roof buildings. The Siheyuan was in a state of decay and dilapidation - its old roofs, walls, doors and windows withering away. The unused courtyard presented a bleak view, with the spaces overgrown with weeds.
“The original building was a Siheyuan with three courtyards, 15m long and 42m wide. The front courtyard was smaller with a row of inverted houses and a gate tower, which was separated with the other two courtyards by the wall. There were way too many partitions inside the building, resulting each space in the courtyard as too narrow and dark, both indoors and outdoors. The renovation aims to open up various zones to make the space a continuous whole, in tandem with forming a rational arrangement of the functions of the spaces,” describes Han Wenqiang, Founder and Chief Architect of ARCHSTUDIO.
The architects began by listing out the features that needed to stay from the traditional housing, the areas that required improvement, and the new additions. In order to preserve the appearance of a traditional Siheyuan, they neatened the houses and repaired the surfaces of the buildings, along with strengthening a few of its existing features. Transitioning into modern elements, they brought in living facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom, garage, HVAC pipes and verandas for each courtyard.
ARCHSTUDIO astutely linked up the seven, previously separated pitched roof houses of the Siheyuan by inserting a veranda – a basic feature in traditional Chinese architecture. The transparent, continuous veranda winds around the spaces, according to various functions and landscapes, and takes form on account of the curved edges of the existing pitched roofs. The rounded glass veranda unites the landscape, the living spaces and the open sky, as one continuous structure.
According to Wenqiang, the glass veranda provides a fun and spatial walking experience, along with extending views within the Siheyuan. “The integration of the veranda becomes an important part of the Qishe Courtyard as it functions as a circulation route, while reshaping the spatial patterns and layers within the space.”
ARCHSTUDIO retained the pitched roof of the front courtyard and converted it into a garage by removing the walls in the front and the back. The team also preserved the historical gateway - the carvings on the arched door and the dry tree have existed in the courtyard house for years.
The transparent veranda replaced the wall that stood between the front and the middle courtyard, opening up the space visually. ARCHSTUDIO retained the previous living activity spaces here with a living room, tea room, dining room and kitchen, and the stairs leading to the houses have been replaced with gentle slopes.
For the third courtyard, ARCHSTUDIO planned areas of dwelling - two bedrooms, a tea room and study. The veranda here has an undulating plane, integrating the three old, existing trees of the courtyard. The bedrooms are planned right at the back, with adjoining bathrooms, and are placed next to small yards to ensure plenty of light and ventilation.
The material scheme of the Qishe Courtyard follows the architects’ purpose of preserving the old and adding on something new. “The original pine wood framework of the Siheyuan was maintained, with its damaged components replaced by the same material. The new veranda, doors, windows and some furniture utilise laminated bamboo panels, which echo with the old pine wood. The newly built veranda adopts a frame structure, with ribbed beams and panels on the ceiling, and maximises transparency and lightness, along with blending into the old construction,” the studio clarifies.
The gray bricks from demolished structure were reused to restore the building walls, and the floor of outdoor spaces was paved with the same bricks. Items like stone slices, crocks and millstone found during construction were reused as stairs, flowerpots and decoration. The old, wasted wood was brought to life by fashioning new chairs for the project.
ARCHSTUDIO has utilised the ruins of an old building and renovated the Qishe Courtyard with precision and careful consideration, retaining its historic value in its new, modern setting.
Name: Qishe Courtyard
Location: Beijing, China
Area: 500 sqm
Construction period: September 2017 – January 2020
Chief designer: Han Wenqiang
Project designer: Wang Tonghui
Structural consulting: Zhang Yong, BAMBOO ERA
Lighting consulting: Dong Tianhua