An Amazing Home Rises From an Abandoned Ruin in China

In the remote village of Longtan in Anhui Province, China, RSAA / Büro Ziyu Zhuang transforms a ramshackle ruin into an enchanting home straight out of a folktale.

In Chinese architecture, the basic building block is referred to as a bay—the space between the roof supports. This modern home was once a dilapidated house built in the traditional Huizhou and Yanjiang style, with three bays along the east-west axis, and one bay along the south-north axis. After sitting abandoned for ten years, the home was overgrown with weeds, and its roof and walls were badly damaged.

Tongling Recluse looks out upon pristine mountain vistas.

The eaves create sheltered walkways around the house.

Old and new combine in this enchanting restoration and renovation project.

The idea for a new 1,722-square-foot house was born when the home's owner spoke to Ziyu Zhuang of RSAA: "Look at the tallest tree that survived in our village. It’s beautiful. It should be seen in this house after it's been rebuilt." And so the design of the home, named Tongling Recluse, evolved around preserving the tree and elements from the old ruins.

RSAA thoughtfully integrated fully glazed walls with the house's old bones.

The house sits well within a rocky forest landscape.

Keeping the tree in mind, Zhuang divided the ruins of the old walls into two parts. He added a new bay to the west and oriented it towards a rocky mountain. Another bay enlarges the main living areas.

"We used a sweeping curvature that rises to create an imaginary space detached from the original projection. Because of the limitation of the original height of the old house, and its badly damaged roof, we added two new floors to the original building," says Zhuang.  

A window looks down to the courtyard.

RSAA lowered the front of the roof’s ridge to create a traditional folded roof that integrates harmoniously with the streamlined interior spaces. 

 "The new ridge formed a bay of its own. One half of this bay is incorporated into the outdoor contour of the original building, while the other half forms the veranda under the eaves. The design reveals a virtual space against the physical house in the east elevation and converses with the sunken garden landscape in the south," says Zhuang.

A corridor on the second floor.

The dining and living areas are separated by a suspended, copper-plated staircase.

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The middle section of an old wall creates a courtyard where the owner can stargaze at night. 

The terrace, living room, dining room, and kitchen are located along the more exposed eastern side of the house. The courtyard and bedroom are located along the more private western section. 

The bay on the west side of the home contains a bedroom.

The bathroom on the second level.

The entrance gate to the house.

The roof draws upon traditional Chinese aesthetics.

RSAA incorporated the old, damaged walls into the new residence.

A copper entrance at the back of the house.

An aerial view of Tongling Recluse.

The home's gray tile roof matches the roofs of the other houses in the ancient village.

The state of the building before the renovation.

Workers constructing the new house.

Tongling Recluse east elevation

Tongling Recluse west elevation

Tongling Recluse south elevation

Tongling Recluse north elevation

Related Reading: In Just 31 Days, These Historic Chinese Ruins Were Transformed Into a Chic B&B 

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: RSAA / Büro Ziyu Zhuang

Builder: Anhui Jiangnan Cultural Tourism Group

Landscape Design: Shugen Yang

Lighting Design: Chloe Zhang of GLD


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