Anna Garden is a sanctuary of muted materiality set within a cascading landscape

Located in Changping district near Beijing, Anna Garden emerges as an ode to a simplistic and material-pure architectural style in response to its site surroundings.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 14, 2022

Built on a 1,300 sq.m. site in the Changping district to the north of Beijing city, Anna Garden can be easily classified as an architectural manifestation of a quote by Sir Isaac Newton, stating how "nature is pleased with simplicity". Set amidst lush green mountains and adjacent to a mirror-like lake, the project has been designed to evoke the client’s childhood memories of living in the countryside by fully harnessing the site's natural avenues. Having completed the renovation work within a short span of 15 months, the architects sum up their intent in an official statement, stating that the house "seeks not the concrete object of memory, but the memory itself."

  • Eastern facade of the house; stripped off all materiality, the house maintains a reductive yet dignified form | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Eastern facade of the house; stripped off all materiality, the house maintains a reductive yet dignified form Image: Eiichi Kano
  • Birds’ eye view of the project, showing its idyllic surroundings | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Birds’ eye view of the project, showing its idyllic surroundings Image: Courtesy of PRphoto
  • Structural glazing has been used on the West facade to maximise sunlight inside the building | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Structural glazing has been used on the West facade to maximise sunlight inside the building Image: Courtesy of PRphoto
  • North side view | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    North side view Image: Eiichi Kano

In the process of redefining the site context and utilising it to better guide the formation of the structure, the architects analysed the rather modest setting, and the heavily contoured levels of the site that were initially ignored are now used to create an accessible and idyllic terraced landscape. The established visual hierarchy, emerging from the 8m height difference within the site sets a tone of 'freedom and nature' for the project, creating a sense of walking idly by through expansive landscapes. Furthermore, what was originally conceived as a typical European-style house with a large courtyard is stripped off all European ornamentation from the facade to decidedly bring back the natural character and austere form of the building.

  • The usage of a hollow brick screen conceals the front porch | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The usage of a hollow brick screen conceals the front porch Image: Eiichi Kano
  • The entrance pathway is covered with a wooden pergola with vines | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The entrance pathway is covered with a wooden pergola with vines Image: Eiichi Kano
  • Curved stairs are continued from the landscape to the interiors | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Curved stairs are continued from the landscape to the interiors Image: Eiichi Kano
  • TImber-clad columns along the corridor add to the assumed natural materiality and outlook of the house, blending the indoors and outdoors | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    TImber-clad columns along the corridor add to the assumed natural materiality and outlook of the house, blending the indoors and outdoors Image: Eiichi Kano

Inspired from the raw, rugged character of its surroundings, the facade is clad in simple, rustic northern red bricks. Carrying forward a semblance of a colonial architectural style, the gabled roof is incorporated in the new design, but in a contemporary way that seems to reform and renew itself. Discarding a number of classical elements including overhanging eaves, tiles, and ornamented window edges, the no-pretence visual of the house that emerges can be tastefully compared to the sincere behaviour of a child. This resonated fully with the brief given by the clients, not just in terms of spatial experience, but in the character of the building as well.

  • View of the dining area | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    View of the dining area Image: Eiichi Kano
  • The rustic red bricks have been used to bind the interiors with the exterior facade | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The rustic red bricks have been used to bind the interiors with the exterior facade Image: Eiichi Kano
  • A modern-looking fireplace serves as a highlight for the wall and common living space | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    A modern-looking fireplace serves as a highlight for the wall and common living space Image: Eiichi Kano
  • The use of warm tones and wood make the space feel comfortable | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The use of warm tones and wood make the space feel comfortable Image: Courtesy of PRphoto

A hollow brick screen conceals the main entrance on the east and the original front porch, maximising privacy inside the house, while still providing a sense of openness. The planning of the house is rather uncomplicated, with the ground floor catering to common living spaces and the more private zones being on the first floor. “With the minimalist design language, the irregular interspersion of function, structure, and material makes the interior space more interesting,” state the architects. The aspect of material purity from the design has been represented mainly through the usage of wood, concrete, and glass, along with red bricks in both interiors and exterior.

  • The landscape design has been conceived in levels, utilising the height difference in the site | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The landscape design has been conceived in levels, utilising the height difference in the site Image: Eiichi Kano
  • The structure introduces avenues to overlook a lush green landscape  | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The structure introduces avenues to overlook a lush green landscape Image: Eiichi Kano

Blurring the boundaries between the inside and outside, maximising the intake of sunlight, the exterior walls of the house have been flanked with floor-to-ceiling glass folding doors which further bring the occupants closer to nature. The distance between the dining room, living room, teahouse, and the outdoors seems dramatically reduced due to the lack of a visual barrier upon opening of the glass doors. The curvilinear form assumed by the landscape design on the northern side of the building creates small terraces that double up as several smaller playgrounds. On the lower level, a small viewing room and brick pavilion have been planned to serve as ‘floating islands’ or meeting points.

  • The landscape design elements during construction phase | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The landscape design elements during construction phase Image: Courtesy of KiKi ARCHi
  • The levels and contours being formulated for the comprehensive landscape design | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    The levels and contours being formulated for the comprehensive landscape design Image: Courtesy of KiKi ARCHi

The use of topography and natural elements is well articulated with the plantation scheme being non-rigid and free flowing, following the initial concept of 'freedom of nature'. A highly experienced plant design team from 'Wild Scape' was called on board to focus on the perspectives of environmental analysis, soil improvement, vegetative seasons, maintenance cost, and other multidimensional aspects of plant care. The vine installation above the entrance pergola, seemingly behaves as its skin and provides ample shade on the stone pathway below. A flower rack placed at the entrance harmoniously mimics the herringbone of the roof form.

  • Anna Garden: Site plan | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Anna Garden: Site plan Image: Courtesy of KiKi ARCHi
  • Anna Garden: Floor plans | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Anna Garden: Floor plans Image: Courtesy of KiKi ARCHi
  • Anna Garden: West elevation | Anna Garden | KiKi ARCHi | STIRworld
    Anna Garden: West elevation Image: Courtesy of KiKi ARCHi

Despite being in the countryside, the house gleefully embraces its modern character, along with the perceived warmth of being true to its surroundings and a natural character. It commemorates, in its architectural manifestation, the idea of being free and at peace that enables the human mind to procreate.

Project Details

Name: Anna Garden
Location: Beijing, China
Typology: Residence
Design Firm: KiKi ARCHi
Design Team: Yoshihiko Seki (Director), Saika Akiyoshi, Tianping Wang
Plant Design: WILD - SCAPE
Site Area: 1000 sq.m.
Building Area: 300sq.m.
Material & Brands: micro cement-Gobbetto / Diatom mud-Shikoku / Kitchen-TJM kitchenhouse

(Text by Navisha Sogani, intern at STIRworld)

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