An Old Cave Dwelling in Central China Is Transformed Into a Stylish Home

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
A traditional, Chinese cave dwelling is transformed into a chic and modern rammed earth residence for a local Internet star.

Although the original structure—which sits in the east-central area of the Shaanxi region—was in a state of severe disrepair, the Beijing–based architecture firm hyperSity was able to beautifully reimagine the site into a contemporary, stylish residence

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As you can tell from above, the original dwelling was uninhabitable and nearly collapsing. 

As you can tell from above, the original dwelling was uninhabitable and nearly collapsing. 

However, as part of a project for Wow Home—a Chinese reality television series that showcases transformative home renovations—the team at hyperSity completely revamped the dwelling.

However, as part of a project for Wow Home—a Chinese reality television series that showcases transformative home renovations—the team at hyperSity completely revamped the dwelling.

The site originally consisted of a large barrel-vaulted volume and a front courtyard, which contained a cluster of three smaller properties. 

To start the transformation, the architects demolished the original structure, opening the courtyard entirely.

Here is an overall look at the renovation plans.

Here is an overall look at the renovation plans.

They then set about rebuilding the perimeter wall for both structural support and privacy. The decision to opt for rammed earth as a building material was historically significant, as it reflected the local building customs.

The main cave was preserved and divided into two separated functions: the inner space as a bedroom, and the outer space as the living room. 

The main cave was preserved and divided into two separated functions: the inner space as a bedroom, and the outer space as the living room. 

To help reduce the project's costs, clay and sand from the neighboring mountains were used for the renovation. These materials not only provided practical support for the cave, but they'll also assist in keeping the home's temperature regulated throughout the coming seasons.  

A quick peek at the exterior courtyard.

A quick peek at the exterior courtyard.

The design strategy for the renovation ensured every room would be well-ventilated, as well as bright and airy. While the northern section was preserved, the transformation of the courtyard brought forth new spaces, such as a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and a few bedrooms.

The main entrance of the cave was transformed into a wooden grid façade with a glass curtain wall, allowing ample natural light to enter the space. 

The main entrance of the cave was transformed into a wooden grid façade with a glass curtain wall, allowing ample natural light to enter the space. 

The architects converted the original cave into the primary living room, while also designing a bedroom for the client's grandmother in the space. 

An interior view of the living area.

An interior view of the living area.

The large timber screen allows natural light to enter—as well as playful decorative shadows—while still maintaining a sense of privacy from the outer courtyards.

The large timber screen allows natural light to enter—as well as playful decorative shadows—while still maintaining a sense of privacy from the outer courtyards.

The opening above leads to the central courtyard. 

The opening above leads to the central courtyard. 

Here's a look at the extra bedroom that was created for the client's grandmother. 

Here's a look at the extra bedroom that was created for the client's grandmother. 

Traditional furniture was kept in the interior, signifying a homage to the past. 

Traditional furniture was kept in the interior, signifying a homage to the past. 

A circular glass light was implemented in the middle of the cave to form a large transparent tunnel, which now naturally illuminates the interior.

A circular glass light was implemented in the middle of the cave to form a large transparent tunnel, which now naturally illuminates the interior.

A quick view from the living area. 

A quick view from the living area. 

Despite the overall renovation, it was the large southern courtyard that underwent the most transformation, as five separate volumes were constructed, along with five open-air courtyards.

By constructing separate volumes and courtyards, natural light is now able to make its way into every space of the residence. 

By constructing separate volumes and courtyards, natural light is now able to make its way into every space of the residence. 

The separate courtyards are connected via a zigzag path that is similar to traditional Chinese gardens, creating a tranquil atmosphere.

The separate courtyards are connected via a zigzag path that is similar to traditional Chinese gardens, creating a tranquil atmosphere.

Smaller courtyards connect the southern-facing volumes of the home.

Smaller courtyards connect the southern-facing volumes of the home.

The serene atmosphere channels the tranquility of a traditional Chinese garden. 

The serene atmosphere channels the tranquility of a traditional Chinese garden. 

Floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows keep the interiors bright and airy. 

Floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows keep the interiors bright and airy. 

Here's a look at the new dining area.

Here's a look at the new dining area.

In front of the cave entrance is a new semi-curved canopy that is used to prevent the strong wind from Northwestern Mongolia. 

In front of the cave entrance is a new semi-curved canopy that is used to prevent the strong wind from Northwestern Mongolia. 

A peek at the front entrance of the home.

A peek at the front entrance of the home.

A side view of the front entrance. 

A side view of the front entrance. 

A mesmerizing night view from above. 

A mesmerizing night view from above. 

A model of the dwelling's redesign. 

A model of the dwelling's redesign. 

Another look at the living spaces from above.

Another look at the living spaces from above.

Here is the finalized layout of the project.

Here is the finalized layout of the project.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: hyperSity Architects 

Lead Architects: Yang Shi, Shaojun Li