sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house

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well house combines space, nature and well-being

ATLAS Studio designed ‘Well house’, a group of wooden buildings in the 1,000-year-old Miao mountain village in Jiayi, China. Inspired by the region’s amorphous landscape and vernacular architecture, the end result takes the form of a structured, timber-framed complex of buildings that function as a modern wellness center. Hotel. The aim of the project was to preserve the local culture and follow a sustainable design strategy, while forming a space for physical and spiritual healing.

Miao Mountain Village in Jiayi | all images by ATLAS Studio

four wooden houses that connect with the environment

Due to site limitations, four separate houses were selected to build the hotel after demolishing the old house on site. Two of the wooden houses are provided for accommodation with nine guest rooms in total, the third is the visitor center and the fourth serves as the yoga center. In the process of forming the layout of these buildings, the design team followed some basic architectural disciplines, such as the modernization of the timber frame structure.

The Miao stilt building is a common dwelling structure, and the challenge of its construction technology is to use small pieces of wood to build larger-scale houses. Each building is structured to allow transparency and unimpeded interior and exterior views. Thus, the location of the windows played an important role in the interior design. Specifically, the nine guest rooms offer 270° ultra-wide-angle landscape views, allowing guests to connect with the natural landscape at all times.

sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house
the wooden houses of the Well Hotel stand on the narrow ridge

sustainable materials and interior design

The team took on some challenges in order to fit out five rooms on a narrow 20 meter long site and use an open space between the restaurant and the guest room, and manage to open double entrances on the left and to the right of the buildings. The old staircase was reinstalled for the entrances and the old demolished timber from the original site was reused to form an interior parquet floorg, following the principles of sustainability. As for the materials, the main structures are made of newly purchased fir wood, while the interior floor uses Yunnan volcanic slate, and the earth plaster and bluestone wall materials were purchased locally.

Blue stones, wooden piles and laser-cut metal elements were selected. Finally, carefully planned heat and sound insulation covers every room, providing a comfortable living experience. The environmental signage system has been placed in such a way as to harmoniously coexist and integrate into the environment. Adding to the rest of the design details, a spacious bathtub on the balcony gives guests the opportunity to relax body and mind as they immerse themselves in the fresh air and beautiful scenery of the calm mountains. The design of the hotel was an effort to ‘to recall the silent unison between man and nature’ and to provide a healing experience in the relaxing and calm environment of the forest, comments the ATLAS team.

sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house
the Well hotel with a view of the surrounding rice fields

well house is in A dialogue with the local community

The current project aims to connect local culture and traditional craftsmanship with modern design. The return to a simpler rural life offers healthy and sustainable ideas for the architectural process. For the workshop, ‘sustainability means an attitude of humility’. Different natural resources contribute to a different outcome and require more inclusive design strategies, as well as various cultural integration development approaches. In addition to the sustainable pursuit of preserving local culture, the project focuses on exploring and regenerating the lifestyle of southeastern Guizhou, to build a dialogue between modernity and tradition, opening up the multidimensional perspective of ethnic culture in contemporary development.

sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house
the modern wooden frame structure of the facade

sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house
small pieces of wood create the modern look of the house

sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house
the main structures of the building are made of fir wood

sustainable design meets vernacular chinese tradition in the well house
the layout of the interior provides a comfortable living experience

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Rozella J. Cook