To live and stroll in the paddy fields, halfway up the mountain Architectural design of Dianjiang Bagu·Suji in Chongqing
Site: A natural village of 800 meters above sea level, with a view of the county town
In 2019, the architect came to Dianjiang County for the first time at the invitation of the local government. Dianjiang County is located in the northeast of Chongqing, about 120 km away. The project site is located at Leijiawan, a natural villager group in Shilu Village, Guiyang Street, Dianjiang County. It belongs to the Moon Mountain Range, with an altitude of about 800 meters, a cool and comfortable summer resort. In the west of the site, the back mountain is high, surrounded by hills on both sides. And there is a gap in the southeast where man can see the county town 8 kilometers away, a superior terrain. What's more, there is a horseshoe-shaped paddy field in the site. The production and life of the original villagers revolve around this paddy field with half an acre of land and a cow, working at sunrise and resting at sunset.
In addition to the tranquil rural cultural landscape, there are also historical sites around the field. The most famous one is the Ba Shu Ancient Road. It is said that this is the way to transport litchi from south China to the royal capital city of Chang’an over thousands of miles for Lady Yang Yuhuan, the most beloved concubine of the Emperor Xuan Zong in Tang Dynasty. So, it is also called the Litchi Ancient Road. Nowadays, you can still see the boundary stele of that time and the cliff stone carvings left by the literati through the years.
Layout: To arrange the buildings around the reserved paddy field
The function of the new buildings is B & B, and a collection of several B & B brands. According to the requirements of the operator, the first phase of the architecture will include two B & B brands, which have independent areas and serve different groups of people. The two B & B houses share a series of public spaces, including a book bar, an outdoor swimming pool and a restaurant.
After understanding the upper planning, the architect found that the paddy field is the village development land in the future planning. So, even implementing the construction in this area, it will not occupy the arable land. But the question is, is this the best choice? From the point of view of the difficulty of construction, it is certainly more advantageous to build in the paddy field area. But doing so not only destroys the agricultural landscape, but also makes the project lose its charm. In the end, the architect, the contractor and the operator all agreed that the paddy field should be retained as the core of future B & B.
The buildings are arranged around the paddy field, forming the momentum of hemming horns in the space and mutual viewing in the vision. This is similar to the relationship between "seeing and being seen" in traditional Chinese gardens. The role of the paddy field is like the water surface in the garden which is not only the main body of watching, but also provides a theme for people's activities in space. Since the B & B was put into use, a series of activities have been carried out by the operator around the paddy field that confirmed this point., such as harvest season, paddy yoga and so on.
The guest rooms and reception area are located at the foot of the mountain on the west and south sides, and try not to occupy the land on the premise of having a good view. The original road in the site was moved westward, passing between the new building and the mountain forest behind it, so that the traffic between the new building and the paddy field is not disturbed, which is also convenient for the closed management in the later operation. The book bar and the outdoor swimming pool are arranged together, located on the north side of the paddy field, with the forest behind as the backing. The restaurant is located in the east of the site. It is the only building built in the paddy field, yet buried in the middle of the paddy field. In the southeast corner of the core area of the site, a watchtower is also built, which can be used not only for climbing and sightseeing, but also for forest fire prevention.
Guest rooms: Adjusted to local conditions, calm and practical
Because of the requirements of operation, a sufficient number of guest rooms (totally 25 rooms) need to be designed But in order not to damage the environment, the building is limited to a range of construction, which brings a problem to the architectural design: how to create as many comfortable guest rooms as possible in the limited site while the architectural shape should not be too high at the same time.
Guest rooms are divided into two areas, corresponding to two different B & B brands, StrayBirds and Yuanbai. StrayBirds is located in the site of the original house base (the original building was demolished due to quality problems), facing the gap of paddy field and mountain, with the best view. There are 12 guest rooms on three floors: The entrance floor and the second floor adopt the back porch layout to ensure that all rooms face the paddy field. The first floor is not underground, but a staggered floor formed by using the original height difference of the site. The first floor and the entrance floor are staggered on the section, and the roof of the first floor just becomes the outdoor platform of the entrance floor. In addition to the balcony, the architect also designed a connected shallow pool, which not only provides a comfortable environment for the guest rooms, but also increases the interest of outdoor activities and the visual quality of the building. The treatment of staggered floors also makes the building visually divided into two sections, weakening the oppressive feeling of the total height of three floors. There is an old tree on the south side of the guest rooms of StrayBirds, which carries the memory of the original site. The architect deliberately kept the old tree, and the building is built next to it, forming a symbiotic relationship. The wooden platform under the tree is connected with the shallow pool on the roof of the first floor, which becomes an outdoor leisure site.
The Yuanbai B&B is mainly located at the foot of the mountain on the south side of the paddy field and consists of three two-storey buildings. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows are equipped on the side of the building facing the paddy field to introduce the good landscape into the guest rooms. The split layout ensures the privacy between the guest rooms and the sense of "family style" experience.
The external feeling of the guest rooms is simple and calm, and the sculptural sense and modernity of the body are not pursued. The building is mainly of double slope tops with far-reaching eaves, responding to the rainy climate in Dianjiang area. The new adobe wall material is used on the wall, which ensures the demand of low maintenance cost under the premise of traditional residential appearance.
Book bar and swimming pool: Translation of venues and traditional dwellings
In addition to guest rooms and reception areas, there are also some small buildings in the project, which are scattered in the site. In terms of function, they are the public supporting facilities of B & B, and in terms of spirit, they play the role of scenery staffage, defining the overall temperament of the project together with the environmental landscape.
The function of the book bar includes a library and a water bar, which is located on the north side of the venue, adjacent to the outdoor swimming pool and opposite to the guest room of the Yuanbai B & B hotsel. The building has a large-scale roof, which is a translation of the super scale roof of the local traditional residence. In Dianjiang, traditional dwellings often connect the roof on one side of the wing room with the kitchen and pigsty roof behind it to form a continuous roof with eaves close to the ground. The architect thinks that this is the most characteristic architectural element in the area and applies it to the design of the book bar. The double slope roof of the book bar is separated and asymmetric, and the cornice of the roof facing the paddy field is deliberately lowered, forming a unconventional roof form that gives the building a unique temperament: calm and extraordinary. The horizontal scenery composition enframed from the low cornice leads people's eyes to the paddy field, guest rooms and restaurants. People can enjoy the current scenery more intensively by sitting in the book bar.
The outdoor swimming pool is reconstructed on the original site of the fish pond. This kind of treatment not only reduces the earthwork, but also forms dramatic tension of the scenery before and after the transformation. Today, infinity swimming pool has become the standard configuration of high-end B & B. The architect hopes to create an infinity swimming pool “in paddy field". With the improvement of the follow-up agricultural landscape, the swimming pool will be more closely combined with the paddy field. The swimming experience of smelling the fragrance of rice and touching the rice ears would be so romantic.
Restaurant: Hidden in paddy field to welcome sunrise
The scale of the existing restaurant is very small which, after the completion of the second phase of the large restaurant, will mainly undertake small-scale special catering services. At the beginning of the design, the architect hoped to build a small building in the east side of the site, at the gap of the mountain. On the one hand, it could play the role of scenery staffage. On the other hand, it could provide guests with a foothold to watch the sea of clouds and sunrise and to overlook the county.
The building is selected to be built on the edge of the paddy field. In order not to damage the overall landscape of the paddy field, the architect uses the elevation difference of the terrain to bury the building underground and hide it in the paddy field. The architectural form should be as simple as possible, and the plane should be in the form of broken line, which should be buckled into the site. Single slope top, concrete structure and floor-to-ceiling glass windows of the facade facing the cliff mouth keep the indoor and outdoor transparency of the building. The roof adopts counter beams, and the indoor ceiling is kept level. Instead of using conventional roof treatment, rice is planted in soilless culture on the roof and, meanwhile, the counter beams become the partition to keep the water surface. The rice on the roof is integrated with the paddy field around the building, which makes the building invisible and gives the building distinct personality.
Next to the restaurant, a small outdoor spa pool has been added at the request of the owner. The spa pool is located at the mouth of the cliff with an amazing view. In the early morning, the restaurant and the spa pool face the east, which is the best place to welcome the first ray of sunlight at sunrise; in the evening, through the warm lights in the restaurant and the candlelight on the outdoor platform, a romantic atmosphere arises spontaneously.
Landscape: Respect the environment, simple and natural
The site of this project has a special temperament: with mountains on three sides, open to the east, surrounded by mountains and forests, and a paddy field in the middle, which has the atmosphere of a paradise. This is not a venue in the city, but a place of "poetry and distance" that contemporary urbanites yearn for. Therefore, the landscape design of this project hopes to minimize the urbanization elements and make the rustic flavor the core.
The paddy field is completely preserved and the original road between the village and the paddy field has been moved to the west side of the new building to connect the building and the paddy field more directly. The newly opened walking path connects several buildings, which follow the original ridges and forest paths. The road surface is not completely flat. The main road materials are stones and rootstocks, on which people need to walk at a slower pace and watch their steps. Most of the areas around B & B and public buildings are paved with hard materials, incl. local bluestone or the cornerstones left by the old buildings in the site mainly, which have both local characteristics and a touch of nostalgia.
At night, the light to illuminate the path is provided by simple light bulbs, which are installed on low bamboo sticks inserted in the roadside rice fields. There is a simple bamboo lampshade on the light bulb, which is used to cover the light bulb and let the light flow out gently. The design seems simple and casual, but that's what the architect wants to convey.
Conclusion: A realm with no subject or object, but only man in mountain
The architectural design of Dianjiang Bagu·Suji does not pursue a novel shape, but is more about the relationship and interaction between architecture, nature and human. The original natural conditions of the site are preserved as much as possible, and the buildings are added to the space in a "pointed" way, becoming the anchor of vision and behavior. Finally, there are people, who wander between architecture and landscape, from the dichotomy of subject and object to gradually becoming a part of the landscape. As time slows down, nature, architecture and man become one unconsciously, which may be the realm of "man in mountain (the recluse)" pursued by ancient Chinese.
After its completion, relying on the superior natural environment, Dianjiang Bagu·Suji has become popular rapidly. It has caused a lot of repercussions in the industry and become a "punch-in spot" for tourists. The mode of using idle assets in rural areas and activating them with new formats and design has become an important case of the local rural "three changes reform policy", which provides a certain reference for the local rural development. This is also the result of the cooperation and joint efforts of the government, the owner, the operator and the designer.
Project name: Architectural design of Dianjiang Bagu·Suji in Chongqing
Location: Shilu Village, Dianjiang County, Chongqing
Owner: Xingdian Industrial Co., Ltd in Dianjiang County
Operator: Suji Construction Society
Lead architects: He Wei, Chen Long
Project architect: Liang Zhuyu
Project designers: Liu Mingyang, Sang Wanchen, Cao Shiqing, Li Wanting, Hua Xiaoying, Zhang Tianyan, Li Junqi, Lin Peiqing, Li Hongyu (intern), Zong Zhenzhen (intern), Yin Xinyi (intern)
In-depth design: Lin Shen (architecture), Guo Jiasheng (structure)
On-site designer: Liu Mingyang
Architecture and landscape design (excluding interior design): 3andwich Design (www.3andwichdesign.com)
Partner: Beijing VAGE Institute of Architectural Design & Planning Co., Ltd
Landscape consultant: Li Guojun
Construction area: 2500 sqm
Design time: 2019 - 2020
Completion time: July, 2020
Photography: Jin Weiqi, He Wei