The project located on the mountainside of Qifeng Village. This two-storied commune’s house was once a public place for Qifeng Village’s production brigade. Nowadays, with the withering of villages, it were idle and almost abandoned. Such a house might seem to be of little value to villagers, but for architects, it was just like an uncut jade to be carved into great works.
we proposed renovation and moderate transformation of the preserved commune’s house, so that it can serve people’s life once again, rather than be deserted and forgotten like an old-fashioned article. We call such a project a “buildingless building”. Under this premise, the future commune’s house should be used by both villagers and visitors.
For local residents, it would be a public lounge where they can gather and chat over a cup of tea. For visitors from outside, it would be a museum showcasing the history and features of Qifeng Village. After on-site survey of the house, the status of the house could be described as follows: The overall timber structure and structural carpentry were in good condition, with just a few timber beams decayed on the surface, which could be polished or partially replaced.
On the exterior brick-filled walls, the clay mortar in the brick joints was mostly detached due to lack of maintenance, with lots of exposed brick joints in need of jointing and reinforcement. As a result, our renovation strategies were made in accordance with the following principles.
1. Focus on structural reinforcement and the restoration of exterior walls and the roof, so as to eliminate air leakage, wind leakage and potential structural risks.
2. Do “subtraction” to the original space for more diversified functionality and higher efficiency. The original commune’s house had two floors covering all spans, with the staircase located in a span in the middle. So we transformed the space at that span into a double-height one. Plus, at the span on the opposite side of the house, we made some very crucial changes: walls on both sides of the span, as well as the floor slab of the 2nd floor were removed to form an interior double-height “street”, where the staircase were relocated.
In this way, the formerly interior space was transformed into a public street, enlarging the interface between the hall and the visitors, as well as enabling people to have an overview of the exhibition on the 1st floor and get to the public space on the 2nd floor directly. These measures have made it possible to separately operate the exhibition hall on the 1st floor and the villagers’ lounge on the 2nd floor, presenting a space of “double operation units and multi functions”.
3. Use local materials and focus on recycling and processing. From black tiles on the roof to the simple wooden floor on the 2nd floor, durable materials could be found and re-used.
4. Adopt techniques that local craftsmen were familiar with, and keep the usage of industrialized building parts and construction methods to the minimum. The commune’s house that we finally presented was a result of persistence and compromises by the client, the local craftsmen and the architects. To enrich the collection of the historic museum of the village, the villagers spontaneously brought wood and stone carvings of old buildings, manuscripts of the village’s history and farming tools from their houses.
They have taken this public place as part of their home, where they can invite their friends to the 2nd floor for a cup of tea. In this way, the commune’s house became a dynamic place again, reviving its role of serving the people.