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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."
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Name: Anna Garden
Location: Beijing, China
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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