Many cities worldwide face the common dilemma of walking a fine line between the new development and the preservation of existing neighbourhoods. For instance, if you've ever been to Beijing, China, you might have visited one of the city's old hutong neighbourhoods, known for their narrow streets and intricate patchwork of traditional courtyard residences. In recent years, many of these hutongs have been bulldozed to make way for newer buildings, but there are efforts afoot to preserve these unique areas.
In the spirit of keeping the traditional character of the hutongs alive in the Nanluoguxiang area (built during the Yuan Dynasty about 700 years ago), Designboom shows us how Beijing-based studio B.L.U.E. Architecture created a modern, adaptable interior for this tiny 258-square-foot hutong residence that's home to five people -- three generations living under the same roof.With five people living in the same small space, it was important to maximize the available space as much as possible. This was achieved by using a lot of convertible furniture that pops out of the walls and built-in cabinetry, or which can be used for more than one task. For example, in the kitchen, you have wall-to-floor cupboards, and multi-functional furniture like prep tables and wheeled units sliding out of the woodwork, so to speak.
The dense fabric of the surrounding neighbourhood meant that there weren't many existing windows. To remedy that, the architects installed a series of skylights that let plenty of natural daylight in, transforming a dark, cramped space into a spacious-feeling one that is well-lit and open. Bathed in light from above, this lovely library sits at the centre of the home, and is the one room that is visible from all sides.
Creating private spaces for each family member was also critical. A mezzanine is added to create more private space, to serve as a lofted bedroom and lounging space.
Meanwhile, the super-transformer here is the living and dining room downstairs, which can be converted into a more private bedroom space at night, thanks to a fold-down table and movable seats.
It's great to see how small space design can not only make 'less' feel like 'more', but can also help preserve a city's architectural heritage and traditional character. As we've said so many times before, re-adapting an existing building is almost always has less environmental impacts than building something new that's of comparable size and function, and in this project, it's clear that you can end up with something even better. More over at B.L.U.E. Architecture.