by Jincy IypeJan 10, 2022
Yíshè at Atrium House conceived by multi-disciplinary studio via. in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, reimagines with its breezy design, Chinese vernacular architecture, to derive a fresh model for communal living. The clubhouse is nestled near the quiet village of Lung Tin Tsuen, known for many historic houses and walled villages dating back to pre-war days. With its staggered brick facades and rich timber interiors, the clubhouse, part of a residential development, combines a vernacular aesthetic with a contemporary sensibility, with a historically rich setting as a backdrop.
"Atrium House reflects a culturally-rich design with Chinese architectural tradition at its core. The nature of the site led us to think about the many possibilities and how traditional courtyard houses could inform our spatial planning in an urban context. Our design scheme establishes a new form of social space rooted in a sense of community through reinterpreting the vernacular typology,” explains Frank Leung, founder and principal of via.
The clubhouse is organised as a series of standalone brick pavilions surrounding a central pool, and forming a green-lined courtyard as an open-air atrium. The name of the project is also evocative of Chinese architecture and culture, as well as deep-rooted values of traditional Chinese communities such as harmony and peace, which is displayed in the layered style of the form. “Our design sought to create a holistic spatial scheme aimed at rethinking modern community living through these vernacular traditions,” Leung continues.
Via. drew inspiration from silhouettes of traditional Siheyuans (Chinese structures surrounding a central courtyard) to inform the spatial plan for Yíshè at Atrium House, stacking upon the ideals of order and symmetry to create subtly layered, sequential spaces and volumes. “A narrative of “Light Moments” was used to inspire the aesthetic theme. Taking the changes of light in a day, colours representing dawn, day, dusk, and night were subtly embedded into the scheme to distinguish various functional zones,” the designers say.
The client, New World Development, is a leading property developer in Hong Kong, ingrained with forward-thinking, design-led approach to building. “We were commissioned to oversee the interior scheme for the residential clubhouse on the ground floor, which extends out to a vast outdoor area. We configured the space as a collection of single-story pavilion structures (rooms). Designed to be multi-functional, the pavilions house a variety of cultural or leisure amenities for the residential tower’s inhabitants. Indoor and outdoor spaces are interconnected to elevate residents’ experience by encouraging them to explore the different spaces and facilities,” Leung says.
Solid timber gates become preamble for the premises, flanked simply by handcrafted walls of bricks layered carefully and set in a rotation to create a rippling effect for the façade. Visitor’s eyes are drawn towards a “shadow wall” upon entry, spanning the entire foyer with magical colours of dawn and the sunsets. “The feature wall is composed of hundreds of teardrop-shaped metal plates that were hand stacked to resemble traditional roof tiles, some of these also double as mailboxes for the residences,” informs the design team.
From the lobby, visual movement is directed towards the central courtyard, Yíshě, where the project’s club facilities are housed. An array of contemporary brick pavilions wrap around a central, lengthy pool here, creating an interconnected loop of indoor and outdoor areas, linked by narrow pathways that evoke ancient hutongs of China. These pavilions host communal cultural and leisure amenities such as chess, calligraphy, banquet and kitchen, gym, play room, anchored by a tea salon that enjoys views to the calming mountain overhead.
“Greenery and landscaped areas further tie together the courtyard with poetic calmness. When viewed from above, overlapping pavilions roofs become giant vessels for trees to offer a unique perspective to the tower’s inhabitants,” shares via.
As an extension of Yuen Long’s heritage architecture where many blue-brick houses built in the 1930s still remain, the pavilions are dressed in proportioned, staggered, traditional Chinese blue bricks. “With this being a significant part of the neighbourhood’s fabric, we were interested to build upon the architectural language to create a new, distinctive expression on the materiality,” the studio says. Via. collaborated extensively with local craftsmen and heritage specialists to come up with unique formations for the pavilions’ softly rounded facades, as well as the choreographed apertures that form abstract patterns in the brick, allowing light to gently filter through. “It was a great experience exploring and working with Chinese blue bricks. The experimentation with this classic material made us push boundaries for its usage, to form the contemporary look the Atrium House dons,” they add.
The solid entrance gates, pivoting windows and covered spaces are clad in timber to give a warm and modern contrast to the rawness of the neat brick walls.
Yíshè at Atrium House’s interior design also hints at Chinese heritage via its architectural details such as the dramatic stepped ceiling that lines the banquet room, inspired by rice terraces, reflecting the varying depths of the planters above the pavilion roofs. Pivoting windows create a seamless relationship between the interior and exterior, forming contrasting shadows on the mosaic floors, in tandem with allowing different levels of privacy.
Curated furniture, artworks, sculptures and hand-painted ceramics further enliven the interiors. “In the Chess pavilion, artist Andrew Luk’s LED-lit landscape pieces reflect the shape of traditional Siheyuan. We also designed bespoke signage for each activity zone crafted from stacked metal sheets with custom Chinese lettering,” adds via.
“Through reinterpreting the Chinese vernacular typology, Yíshè at Atrium House represents a new form of shared social space rooted in a sense of community and the traditional way of life,” concludes Leung.
Name: Yíshè at Atrium House
Location: Yuen Long, Hong Kong
Year of completion: 2021
Client: New World Development
Architect and designer: via.