Twisting Courtyard: Infrastructure Upgrade

Archstudio

Architects: Archstudio
Location: Paizihutong, Beijing
Area: 225.4 m2 (site) 161.5 m2 (building)
Year: 2017
Photography: Wang Ning, Jin Weiqi

Twisting courtyard is located in Paizihutong, Dashilar Area, Beijing. It used to be a siheyuan [courtyard house] with a single entry. The purpose of the improvement is to upgrade the necessary infrastructure needed for modern life, thus turning this traditional courtyard, which mainly serves as a residence, into an attractive public space in Beijing’s inner city.


Twist within a regular layout

The design aims at getting rid of the solemn and stereotyped impression given by a siheyuan, creating an open and active living atmosphere. Based on the existing layout of the courtyard, the undulated floor is used to connect indoor and outdoor spaces of different heights. And it is extended to the inside of the house, twisting into the walls and roof, thus creating a dynamic connection between inside and outside spaces. What is hidden within the curved wall are the necessary auxiliary spaces such as kitchen, toilet and storage; while reception and dining spaces are shown outside the curved wall and connect to the courtyard as a whole. Both indoor and outdoor floors are paved with gray brick. A hawthorn tree in the courtyard is kept and becomes part of the twisting landscape.

Twist between patterns of use

The small yard is mainly used as an urban public space, while maintaining the possibility of its use as a residence. The four houses can be rented for public events for purposes such as recreation, meetings and gatherings. Other times, they could be used as a family hostel with three bedrooms. Integrated furniture allows for flexibility in adapting the spaces. Furniture boxes are inserted into the existing wood frames of the east and west wings. The wood platform with a table hidden inside could be used as a tearoom or a bedroom. A bed wall and a soft partition curtain are also used in the main room on the north to meet multiple use requirements.

In the siheyuan building typology, the courtyard is the core of living fun. “Twisting courtyard” makes micro-adjustments to the relationships between the parts to change the temperament of the courtyard space and to meet requirements of multiple use without changing the existing housing structure. This brings the traditional courtyard up to date and integrates it into modern urban life.

Analysis graphics
Construction process