Old meets new: An ancestral rammed earth home in rural China turned into a homestay

Designed to reproduce ‘thunderstorm in spring, fireflies in summer’, a traditional home in Xiamen, China, receives structural and interior interventions to become a cosy homestay.

by STIRworldPublished on : Aug 27, 2021

The Design Institute of Landscape and Architecture Academy of Art – an architectural practice based in Hangzhou, China - has executed the adaptive reuse of an ancestral home comprising three ancient structures into a homestay in the Chinese city of Xiamen. Dating back to different times – "from the 30s to the 70s of the last century" – the building, located in the Dazhai village, had collapsed at many places and needed new interventions in order to make it habitable.

The building and its context | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
The building and its context Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

Originally constructed using old strip stones, rammed earth and wooden techniques, some parts of the property needed structural additions while others ensued interior design mediations. As per the architects, in addition to the ancestral homes, the site also house two new buildings from the recent times. The starting point for the design became the idea of reproducing childhood memories, making the space a canvas to reflect "grandma’s expectation under the eaves, thunderstorm in spring, fireflies in summer, sunset in autumn, withering scenes in winter, loach catching in water pond, zongzi wrapping, a stool waiting for a Gaojia drama or open-air movie during festivals, enjoying the cool in the starry night after supper, and listening to the old stories told by the elders".

New and the old | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
New and the old Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

Seated in a neighbourhood comprising rows of identical houses – mostly single-storey structures in stone masonry featuring traditional Ying Shan flushed gable roofs – the project sought to combine the old and the new. The collapses in the former architecture were closely evaluated to define the future image of the building. Designed as XiangyuXiangyuan homestay, the studio drew inspiration from the materiality of the home and their own cultural roots. Strip stones in the old architecture belong to the region of Minnan in China’s Southern Fujian province – a region one of the key designers grew up in. “Repairing the old as old will make the building out of date as the contemporary lifestyles have changed, and it was advisable to treat different conditions with different measures: rebuild the collapsed parts with modern styles to form style collisions and reinforce and mediate the remaining parts,” explains the firm in an official statement.

Glass under the wooden eaves | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
Glass under the wooden eaves Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

An entrance hall and a wing room found their way in the collapsed areas of the first building. On the property’s west side, an irregular corner stone gave space to a new smaller structure featuring a beautiful external white wall - the result of which visually collide with the old building. Windows and a staircase leading upto the roof balcony were further added to the new form. “The original building is treated with steel structure of inner sleeve box, and the dialogue between the new wall and the old wall is formed by ingenious treatment of composition and structure,” the firm continues.

  • Old forms throughout the property have been restored | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
    Old forms throughout the property have been restored Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture
  • The tea table behind the stone wall  | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
    The tea table behind the stone wall Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

Acting upon the damages, the renovation of the second building comprises a steel structure frame to support the original wooden volume, and large glass surfaces to 'increase permeability' and filter views of the neighbourhood. The treatment of the atrium and patio is similar to the one realised in the first building.

The stone bricks of the old building are embedded in the new wall | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
The stone bricks of the old building are embedded in the new wall Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

The third building - built of strip stones and large slates - was revived in the new design to retain the structure’s 'original feeling'. In view of the scarce lighting channels in the stone volume, in-built lighting has been incorporated to realise the warm ambience of a home.

  • Locally woven grass carpet | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
    Locally woven grass carpet Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture
  • Handrail wrapped with straw rope | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
    Handrail wrapped with straw rope Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

As per The Design Institute of Landscape and Architecture Academy of Art, the language of interior design of all the three structures found its inspiration in the craft of South Fujian. The extensive use of wood, stone and porcelain, in simple yet intricate forms and geometries, was solely derived from the tree building themes and local folk culture. Overall, vignettes of the old settle in harmony with the new, as the home advances as a reflection of people’s feelings and experiences.

  • New and old live in harmony | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
    New and old live in harmony Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture
  • Bedroom | XiangyuXiangyuan Home Stay | China | STIRworld
    Bedroom Image: Courtesy of Aoguan Performance of Architecture

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