Living next door to the Great Wall of China is a feat in itself, but for this home in a mountainous area north of Beijing, there’s just as much to marvel within as with views of the neighbourhood.
The newly constructed home, in what used to be underground storage for the village’s fruit tree harvest, is an extension of the homeowner’s house in the south side of the property.
“They wanted to transform the nearby underground storage into a four-bedroom weekend house for guests and family,” says Momo Andrea Destro, co-founder of Beiiing-based MDDM Studio. The homeowners had in mind a “simple and modern house, with the living room as the most important space for gathering friends and family around a fireplace.
With this in mind, the architects created an open-plan living area, punctuated by a modern custom-made fireplace set amongst a subdued palette of polished concrete, white plaster walls, and the natural stone walls preserved from the original facility, which permeate the home's interiors throughout.
Various textures create an ambience of calm and comfort – the dark hued rug from Kvadrat, the light grey sofa from Hay, a leather armchair and footstool. In the background, a beautiful wood panelled wall conceals the garage while simultaneously serving as a point of interest and warmth in the area.
“Walking around the house, you have a strong sense of consistency, but once you settle in a specific place, different details and materials emerge as defining characteristics of that corner,” says Momo of the house’s overall motif. “Once you get up and walk around, all the elements of the house come together again.”
Running the length of the space is a glass façade looking out into the terrace – the only side of the home where the stone wall was replaced.
"The window on the northern façade provides the living room with a diffused light, softened by the reflection of the windows between the roofs – light bounces against the bedrooms' division walls and reaches the living room with softer intensity," says Momo. "If in the early morning the eastern courtyard lets the sun penetrate the living room, in the late afternoon the warm light of the sunset reflects on the stone wall of the yard, bringing into the house a special golden vibrancy."
East and west of the house, the glass façade continues, sandwiching small garden walkways with the stone walls to bring more light into the home.
“We see architecture as a tension between light and material, where the design is a play between voids and solids. The voids are carved out to lead the light in, while the solid elements bring materiality to the space," says Momo.
Two concrete slabs form the roof, with the north slab covering the dining and living areas, and the south, elevated slightly, covering the bedrooms. The gap between the two roofs bring more light into the structure, while the two-tier positioning parallels that of the surrounding environment’s natural terraces.
The bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms, feature higher ceilings as a result. From here, towards the southeastern corner of the volume, a tunnel connects the house to the original residence.
“The architecture and the interiors are based on the idea of having few but meaningful interventions, to create a space that is essential in decoration but rich in experience,” says Momo. “The previous structure and function are visible and an important part of the design, as the intervention should make visible the balance of the old and the new.”