chaoffice builds ‘house of mountain birds’ in rural beijing


‘house of mountain birds’ by chaoffice

Built within a small plot of land in rural Beijing‘House of Mountain Birds’ by chaoffice is a vacation home that provides access to and interaction with the mountainous landscape. The client was once a guest at ‘House of Steps’ — an earlier project completed by the studio. During the first meeting, ‘the client showed true love for the open views provided by ‘House of Steps’, and explained how they wished to have a similar terrace at a high vantage point, one that would provide excellent views,’ shares chaoffice.

image © Yumeng Zhu

Dealing with a crowded site naturally posed a challenge for chaoffice (see more here) — specifically, placing a 165 square-meter building onto a 100 sqm plot. Nonetheless, after much work and research, the team successfully designed the ‘House of Mountain Birds’ with three en-suite bedrooms and a series of functional public spaces. An existing courtyard, roughly 20 sqm, was also retained and uplifted.

In reference to the sloping roof typology found in the area, the vacation house is topped with two pitched volumes perpendicular to one another. The bottom roof is the main protective layer, covered on all sides and fitted with a triangular window that captures the countryside. Extending westward and piercing into it is the building rooftop, where owners can enjoy an outdoor escape with a picturesque mountain view.

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rooftop view | image © Cheng Zhi

multi-leveled spaces encouraging dynamic movement

Various rooms combined at multiple heights are held under the sloping volumes to form one cohesive space. Specifically, on the sloping side is a series of terraces functioning as beds at differing elevations. ‘Essentially, the slope becomes the boundary between public and private programs within the house. Compared to a stable horizontal surface, a slope conveys dynamism and movement. Within this process, the body, action, light, and wind flow are also shaped,’ comments chaoffice.

This dynamic form extends to the kitchen, dining, living rooms, and theater, where walls are eliminated and boundaries are entirely blurred. Additionally, the difference in height within the original site is broken up into stages comprising three steps in the theater room. ‘Instead of walls, the height difference becomes a hidden boundary between areas,’ notes the team. Moreover, separating the interior from the narrow courtyard is a generous glazing front that allows morning light to pour through, blurring the distinction between inside and out.

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screening room overlooking the courtyard | image © Yumeng Zhu

In that same spirit, all windows take the place of gaps between different materials and components, for example, between the upper part of the hill wall and the sloping roof, allowing owners to catch sight of the mountains through a triangular window.

Meanwhile, the architects inserted two steep staircases for vertical circulation. The first one connects all the house’s living areas; by cutting a hole at the highest point of the first-floor ceiling, the chaoffice placed the spiral staircase, linking the first level with the roof terrace. A second staircase sits within the private area, leading owners from the first-floor bedrooms to the second floor. ‘This dynamic up and down movement in different areas and at various heights can be metaphorically described as birds circulating in the woods,’ shares the team.

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image © Yumeng Zhu

combining metal and wood, warm and cold tones

Due to a limited budget, the architects opted to construct the residence using corrugated metal panels, pine plywood, latex paint, and polished concrete floors. Combining metal and wood, natural light and nestled rooms with the sloping design, the building naturally brings forth a sense of shelter. ‘The steel pillar and beams beneath the slope are exposed in the living area, and they become part of the feeling it provides. The polished concrete floor is free of joints, making that ‘public’ space feel more integrated and coherent. The courtyard wall retains the same stone masonry as was in place before the renovation, to echo the context of the surrounding village,’ write chaoffice.

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