Crumbling 484 sq. ft. house transformed into bright, intergenerational home

CLOU Architects
© CLOU Architects

As real estate prices rise in cities around the world, micro-apartments and tiny houses are gaining traction as one potential affordable housing solution. In Beijing, tiny homes have existed for quite some time in the narrow alleys of the old city neighbourhoods, called hutong. In modern times, real estate developers have attempted to raze these traditional neighbourhoods to the ground to make way for high rises, but the local government has taken steps in recent years to preserve the hutongs for their cultural history.

In preserving these traditional courtyard homes on the outside, homeowners are now turning to revamping their interiors. Designboom shows this renovation of a 484-square-foot intergenerational hutong home in Beijing, carried out by Christian Taeubert of CLOU Architects. Previously in damp, run-down condition, this old alleyway house has now been updated with a high-performance building envelope and a well-lit, modern interior that a family of six, spanning three generations, can call home.

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

To do this, Taeubert took the approach of designing a "house within a house," with an emphasis on healthy indoor air quality. The existing home was gutted down to the structure and outfitted with 100 millimetres (4 inches) of continuous insulation all around (including the floor). The air-tight building envelope is paired with an energy recovery ventilation system, which ensures a flow of clean air for improved ventilation, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and prevents a build-up of condensation.

The layout has three bedrooms (one for the parents, one for one set of grandparents, and one for a lone grandmother), one loft for the family's little boy, plus areas for sitting, dining, a kitchen, bathroom, and a reading loft. To create more space, the ladders can be rolled out of the way when not in use.

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

The entrance consists of a single glass-paned door that opens the living room out into the narrow alley outside.

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

The design has a "introverted façade" and inward-turning feel to it, as the exterior courtyard space was previously divided among five different families, so the fragmented outdoor space could not really be incorporated into the design. Instead, the scheme uses natural light and a layering of spaces to create an interior haven from the hustle and bustle outside.

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

CLOU Architects© CLOU Architects

Incorporating a good balance between private and common spaces means that this small but efficient design doesn't feel cramped. And rather than destroying these small but vital bits of cultural and architectural history for soulless, modern high-rises, projects like these transform them into energy-efficient, comfortable and viable homes, ensuring that the hutongs will be here to stay for future generations to enjoy. For more, visit CLOU Architects.

Crumbling 484 sq. ft. house transformed into bright, intergenerational home
A traditional alleyway house in Beijing is transformed into an air-tight, energy-efficient home.

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