The Great Wall Commune (the name given to this private development of upscale dwellings) is in Shui Guan, a location at approximately one hour by car from the north of Beijing. The landscape, characterized by steep hillsides, intricate valleys and a thick vegetation, is governed by the zigzagging presence of the Great Wall, which traces the profile of the hillsides and gives the landscape scale and perspective from any given point.
Promoted by a Beijing developer that has raised, among others, a residential quarter in the center of the capital – Soho New Town –, the project emerged with the objective of boosting an idea of ‘Asian architecture’ among the young generations of Oriental architects. For this purpose, a total of twelve professionals from Japan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and continental China were selected, and were commissioned to design eleven residences and a club. The houses were built during a first phase, with the intention of reproducing them as many times as necessary in other sites of the area (something which is being done now in the second development phase).
The plan is simple: a path leads from the entrance – where the club house goes up – to each one of the dwellings, which are accessed through cul-de-sac branches. Ranging from 300 to 700 square meters, the houses have been christened with names that refer to their shape, layout or most significant construction material. The designs move between a search for communion with nature and sophisticated architecture; they combine traditional materials with innovative ones; and the whole complex strives to convey a sense of community among the upper classes. With all these contrasts and contradictions, the development, which also has a private access to the Great Wall – through the interior of which one can circulate without encountering the hustle and bustle of tourists – received a special prize at the Venice Biennale in the year 2002.
The authors of the houses are: Gary Chang (suitcase-hotel house), Shigeru Ban (bamboo.furniture house), Cui Kai (see and seen house), Rocco Yim (distorted courtyard house), Chien Hsueh-Yi (airport house), Antonio Ochoa (cantilevered house), Kengo Kuma (bamboo wall house), Kanika R’kul (shared house), Kay Ngee Tan (casas gemelas), Nobuaki Furuya (forest house), Yung Ho-Chang (split house) and Seung H-Sang (club house)... [+]
Gary Chang, Shigeru Ban, Cui Kai, Rocco Yim, Chien Hsueh-Yi, Antonio Ochoa, Kengo Kuma, Kanika R’ kul, Kay Ngee Tan, Nobuaki Furuya, Yung Ho Chang, Seung H-Sang