Completed in 2020 by ARCHSTUDIO, the Qishe Courtyard House is a renovation project located in a hutong within an old core quarter of Beijing. It’s a small Siheyuan (a traditional Chinese residence typology) with three courtyards. It originally consisted of 7 pitched-roof buildings. ARCHSTUDIO embedded a veranda into the old Siheyuan to link up the seven separated pitched-roof houses.
Qishe Courtyard House Technical Information
- Architects: ARCHSTUDIO
- Location: Beijing, China
- Topics: Courtyard Houses, Glass, Wood, Renovation
- Type: Private Houses
- Area: 500 m2
- Project Year: 2017 – 2020
- Photographs: © Wang Ning, © Wu Qingshan
The veranda has an undulating plane, which interacts with the three old trees that already existed in the courtyard and at the same time forms several small arc-shaped leisure spaces.
Qishe Courtyard House Photographs
Text by the Architects
With a total length and width of 15 and 42 meters, it’s named as “Qishe” (“Qi” and “she” respectively refers to “seven” and “house” in the Chinese language), because its address number in the hutong is seven and it originally consisted of 7 pitched-roof buildings. The Siheyuan before the renovation was old and dilapidated. The primary wooden beams and some arched door openings featuring the style of the Republican era were relatively well preserved. In contrast, most of the roofs, walls, doors, and windows were severely damaged or disappeared. In the three courtyards, there were many temporary architectural blocks inserted many years ago. After demolishing those blocks, the yards were filled with waste of construction materials and overgrown with weeds, presenting a bleak view.
The design firm ARCHSTUDIO set two goals: renovating the old and inserting the new. On the one hand, the designers neatened the houses, repaired all the building surfaces, and reinforced the architectural structures, intending to reproduce the appearance of the traditional Siheyuan. On the other hand, they brought in new living facilities such as the bathroom, kitchen, and garage, HVAC pipes and lines, as well as new veranda spaces. The old and new are integrated into a new whole, to meet better future functional demands of reception and living for the compound.
ARCHSTUDIO embedded a veranda — a fundamental element of traditional Chinese architecture, into the old Siheyuan to link up the seven separated pitched-roof houses. The veranda functions as a circulation route reshaping the spatial pattern and providing a playful walking experience as well as fantastic views.
The front courtyard is mainly used as a garage. ARCHSTUDIO retained its pitched roof, removed the front and back walls, and shifted the entrance door to the side, to leave more space for parking. The design team restored and preserved many valuable historical elements such as the gateway and carvings of the arched door opening, and even a dry tree. Also, the wall between the front and the central courtyards were dismantled and replaced by a transparent veranda.
The material scheme of the project well combines the old and new. We preserved the textures of traditional architectural materials whilst adding some new materials in an appropriate manner, so as to retain the marks of time, and present the contrast and fusion between the new and old.
The veranda features a curved plane and presents variations according to different landscapes and spatial functions. It’s carefully combined with the curved edges of the pitched roofs, hence forming several arc-shaped transparent spaces, which integrate the houses, landscape, and the sky into the same picture. In the front courtyard, part of the veranda’s roof was bent downwards to form a curved wall, behind which are some functional spaces, including the washroom, service room, equipment room, and so on.
The middle courtyard is a public activity space. It previously contained three houses, one on the north, two on the sides. Based on its original layout, ARCHSTUDIO set a living room, a tea room, a dining room, and a kitchen, etc. in this area. The designers adopted a symmetric spatial pattern, which inherits the sense of the formality of traditional courtyard buildings. Besides, they replaced the former stairs that led to houses with gentle slopes. The slopes and the transparent veranda together enhance the connectivity between the indoor spaces and the open courtyard. The dining room has a folding door, which can open the interior to the outside area completely and extend indoor activities to the patio as well. In the middle of the dining room’s back wall, there is an arched door, which was restored and became the entrance to the rear courtyard.
The rear patio is a dwelling space, mainly consisting of two bedrooms, a tea room, and a study. Its original layout is the same as that of the middle courtyard. The veranda in this area has an undulating plain, which interacts with the three old trees that already existed in the courtyard and, at the same time, forms several small arc-shaped leisure spaces. The bedrooms are set at the backmost area, featuring a symmetric spatial layout based on the roof ridge. The bathroom in each bedroom is adjacent to a small yard, which ensures ample light and ventilation.
The material scheme of the project well combines the old and new. ARCHSTUDIO preserved the textures of traditional architectural materials while adding some new elements appropriately, to retain the marks of time and present the contrast and fusion between the new and old. The original pinewood framework of the Siheyuan was maintained, with its damaged components replaced by the same material. The new veranda, doors, windows, and some furniture utilize laminated bamboo panels (a new material that looks like wood and feels like steel), which echo with the old pine wood. The newly built veranda adopts a frame structure, with ribbed beams and panels on the ceiling, to maximize transparency and lightness as well as to better blend into the old construction. As for interior design, ARCHSTUDIO brought in various combinations of furniture made of old or new wood, which shows a perfect mix of different hues and textures.
The traditional pitched roofs used no modern waterproof materials and had poor thermal insulation. Considering this, ARCHSTUDIO optimized the roof system and performance on the premise of retaining the original gray tile rooftops. As to the curved roof of the newly built veranda, the designers utilized polymer mortar as the finish, which is smooth and forms contrast with the adjacent textured tile rooftops. The old building walls were restored, by reusing the gray bricks from demolished temporary architectural blocks in the courtyards. The floor of outdoor spaces is paved with the same type of bricks to ensure visual consistency. Some of the new walls are formed by glass bricks, which have the same size as the old gray bricks. During construction, some stone slices, crocks, and a millstone were found unexpectedly, which were later reused as stairs, flowerpots, and adornments. The wooden beam waste from the architectural renovation was utilized to make chairs, which gives old materials new life.
Qishe Courtyard House Plans
Qishe Courtyard House Image Gallery
Established in 2010 and based in Beijing, ARCHSTUDIO advocates maintaining a harmonious balance between nature, history, and commerce. The firm strives to create emotional spatial environments focusing on various relationships: large and small, exterior and interior, the new and old, the artificial and natural, etc.