The countryside arts village of “Huawaitongwu,” founded 1300 years ago, is located on the outskirt of Hangzhou City, right next to Xihu. Surrounded by mountains, forests and clouds, it is a poetic place with the richness of the historical and cultural heritage. The site, the 200-year old traditional timber-structured cottage, is a typical southern Chinese architecture style. Three young men accidentally discovered this antiquated cottage and decided to refurbish the originally-to-be-demolished building into the modern housing, as well as to preserve the traditional Chinese joint-connection detailing and extraordinary sculptural elements, in accentuating the much-treasured heritage. With our passion and dedication for traditional architectural culture, the design team decided to purchase the cottage with their own savings, spent 15 years to take the project, and collaborated with three young men’s expertise in brand management, design, and construction; respectively, it takes enormous efforts to preserve the decayed remnant by converting it into the base of community culture exchange for gathering backpackers, influences, and neighbors. “Sanhe Villa,” a regenerated architectural work was stemmed from cross-discipline collaboration.
Within the current “Huawaitongwu” village, most of the structures have been converted to western-style buildings to meet the demand for convenience and spatial usage in modern living; however, these mass-produced housing often lack in aesthetics taste, cultural undertone, and connections between buildings, which culminates in the loss of the artistic aura of the yesteryears. As the only remaining old building in the area, the design team places a large white wall in the center of the community traversing in a void and minimalist form amongst old and new buildings, aimed at unifying the contrasting spatial ambiances of the past and the present. The site of the old cottage behind the white wall preserves the existing structural system, wall decoration, overall tectonic form, and incorporation of new materials and techniques in order to maintain the current architectural form of the past dwellings. The renovated “Sanhe Villa” has become a significant cultural center in the area. It attracts people from the industry, the government, and academic fields to visit and reflect on the importance of cultural heritage.
In terms of spatial design, “Sanhe Villa” adopts many creative techniques such as the creation of void spaces (e.g., open square and atrium areas), and social platforms (e.g., atelier studio and open kitchen). Regional art events (e.g., painting and calligraphy work exhibitions, book fairs, and local culinary creative shows) were held to bring public attention toward the past, present, and the future of the “Huawaitongwu” village successfully. In order to preserve the inner courtyard of the traditional residences, the design team seeks to maintain the spatial composition of the three remaining suites of the “Sanhe Villa”, and incorporates the specially designed platform domains to optimize interpersonal interactions. The inhabitants can choose to spend time in either a single room or to interact with others in the inner courtyard which include the front and back landscaped areas, the balcony on the second floor, and the black-tiled pitched roof, etc. The embedded platform is designed to connect with the conventional architectural structure in order to create a spatial dialogue. While the design treatment of how the past and the present intersect with each other, it allows the visitors not merely to experience the accommodation (functionality) but to be subject to diverse perceptual experience in the spatial depth and texture.