Leaky Chamber Renovation, China by Atelier Tree

Catching brightness inside the limited and closed black box

Project Specs


来自 木又寸建筑事物室 对gooood的分享 。更多关于他们:Atelier Tree on gooood.
Appreciation towards Atelier Tree for providing the following description:



Leaky Chamber is a house that leaking indeed, the roof used to have rain seep through . By the renovation, we hoped that it could let some light leak in.

When the renovation was decided at the end of 2015, he had lived in this dark hut in the Hutong compound for four or five years. My landlord conceded to the internal renovation except for the external wall and the original roof. Since I couldn’t construct a big skylight for enjoying the star-scatter sky and fallen leaves, I chose to catch brightness inside the limited and closed black box.

▼项目概览,project preview ©Atelier Tree




▼打开的玄关更衣柜透过鞋帽柜物品的剪影,view to the shoe cabinet and locker in the entryway through the transparent screen ©Atelier Tree

It is a rental after all, so it is the prime principle of this renovation that being economic and practical.

The imagination to every corner of the space is sharpened by the direct experience of living here. Although there were only pencil sketches when the construction started, the workers understood design intention accurately because of direct communication on site and adjusted relatively little due to simultaneous conduct—the whole construction took less than a month. A carpenter made such joke to me:he had never seen this kind of “decoration”, which needs to be executed as carefully as like handcrafting a paper lantern. Actually their reaction was not weird, because the renovation used mostly square metal tube with 15mm width for the framework and 10mm-wide milky white polycarbonate sheets shrouding, which seem like light and fragile material just like paper-made items, so I didn’t mind what he was thinking, by contrast I was happy about it owing to the workers probably got another kind of fun from the creation beyond the stereotype items.

The reasons why we chose these two materials are that square metal tube is light and convenient, additionally 15mm is the relatively small size based on general market specification, it meets the framework strength demand requirement for all kinds of items, moreover, it is able to be cut on site and pieced and melding together fast; polycarbonate sheet is light and convenient as well, so single person can move it and also can cut it on site and install it fast, thin but water-proof and weather-resistant, it allows light pass through and it is not easy to be broken which is a crucial factor; the combination of the two materials also let the sunlight shine through, which leads to that the newly added functional objects wouldn’t block the internal of the room so much from getting sunshine. Plus, both of them are at reasonable costs.

▼轴测分解图,Axonometric exploded drawing ©Atelier Tree




▼背靠背的鞋帽柜更衣柜开合动态图,opening and closing dynamic picture of shoe cabinet and locker ©Atelier Tree

The layout got subtly adjusted to accommodate to living for one person and the need for meeting with friends. On the 1st floor, the compact semi-open kitchen and the washing area are separated between the entry hall and the living room it connects to by being lifted one step higher; bedroom and reading/working area are on the 2nd floor.

On the walls of each room on both stories, abundant shelves and cabinets were put up for storage to achieve to provide as much space as possible and reach out commonly used items as easy as possible. On account of the translucency of polycarbonate, the old window apertures are even able to be ignored when the shelves and cabinets are added on, as the functional structures seem overlapped roughly on the wall surface.

At the entrance, shoe/hat rack touches the wardrobe back-to-back, with that, it creates a little entryway for changing clothes and hats for daily in-and-out handily, also makes the small house not be seen thoroughly after opening the door.

▼开放式厨房,the open kitchen ©Atelier Tree


The kitchen and the entry hall are apart from a bar counter in the middle. With fitting a flat and long fish tank underneath, what vitalizes the still room a lot are a corner of natural landscape at consistent temperature and vivacious elves within it. The shelf hung across two window apertures and connects the small kitchen and entry hall, on which quietly arrayed in the back-lighting, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea, coffee, wine and plum wine, merge the stove top and the bar counter. The area is highly frequently used, expediently and comprehensively.

▼玄关更衣柜与吧台陈列架,the locker room and the shelves in the kitchen bar ©Atelier Tree

▼厨房调料架局部,shelf details ©Atelier Tree


▼地面抬高的开放式厨房、淋浴间区域,the elevated space for kitchen and shower room ©Atelier Tree

The structure below the staircase remains in the old way, with that, the lavatory and the bathing area are boxes made closed and water-proof of polycarbonate with tight sizes. The toilet tremendously improve the convenience of living in Hutong. This is the only part that used transparent polycarbonate. Sticking closely to the primitive wall, it indistinctly shows the spotted texture of the red bricks.

▼红砖墙的肌理透过淋浴间的透明阳光板显现出来 ©Atelier Tree
the translucent polycarbonate in the toilet indistinctly shows the spotted texture of the red bricks


After removing the plastic-aluminum partition door and window in the room in the back of the 1st floor, the space became open and through without any absolute partition. The wine shelf and bookshelf are newly put up on the north wall. Varying in width, they make up the irregularity which formed between the back room and the front room, so that there are flat and long shelves. Meanwhile, they are able to conceal effortlessly behind the big pieces of polycarbonate boards.

▼多功能起居室,the multi-functional living room ©Atelier Tree

▼从吧台看隐藏在聚碳酸酯板后的书架、储物架,bookshelves are hidden behind the polycarbonate screens ©Atelier Tree


Through demolishing the original flat ceiling consist of plasterboard, the old house’s sloping roof turn the space of the entire story to unfold upwards. What’s more valuable is that, the wood beams and supports next to the surface of the traditional architecture expose directly after removing the ceiling, which shows the architectural real feature and signs of time; By knocking off the overly cold ceramic tiles on the sides of the stairs and scraping off the damp and pulverized lime mortar on the old south wall, the plain cement base and spotty black bricks appear and display different features in the memory of the architecture’s body.

▼多功能起居室的可移动长桌,the moveable table in the living room ©Atelier Tree


The mobile long table changes the layouts in the living room as easy as pie, which is made on site with square metal tube and polycarbonate as well. When a completely empty room is needed, this long wheeled table can be swiftly moved under the shelf that hanging at one end of the room. So that, no matter if it’s reading alone or drinking with another person, chatting with 3-5 friends or partying with more friends and watching movie, all turn to be possible. This place become versatile container that holds various activities.

▼移动长桌改变空间使用方式动态图,moveable long table changes the way the space is used ©Atelier Tree


There is no window for getting light naturally in the living room, that’s where the combination of artificial lighting are, with multiple effects according to the using scenario. There are LED strip lights hidden at the skirting, cabinet, purlin on the sloping ceiling and so on, forming basic atmosphere lighting; the obviously seen LED spotlight on the wall is the mainly functional light. The black box gets opened up with cracks and gaps, light radiates through these gaps.

▼悬空的储物柜安装在涂料脱落的原始墙面上 ©Atelier Tree
the cabinets are suspended on the existing walls with stripped coatings

▼光洁的聚碳酸酯板与涂料脱落的原始墙面 ©Atelier Tree
the smooth polycarbonate screens and the existing walls


On the simply functional 2nd floor, the wardrobe added is a non-opaque box right next to the bed, so it’s pretty handy. The bookshelf on the west wall is north-south, with the one on south wall, they make reading immersive by surrounding books and filling light—the reading area is the brightest area in the bedroom.

▼二层卧室与阅读区,bedroom with reading area on the second floor ©Atelier Tree


Not only current living needs to be reasonable and comfortable, but also the dignity of the old house is necessary to keep as well, so its wrinkles or scars shouldn’t be covered up. It, as a strategy, controlled the renovation cost enormously, also released the freedom of both the current and the former of the house at the same time that, removing the surface decoration material that concealing the truth, and adding cabinets and wardrobes and such functional blocks with metal frame shrouded by opal polycarbonate sheets.

▼工作桌与横架在窗口前的长条书架,working table and the metal bookracks ©Atelier Tree


Out of the house, there are ordinarily and mundane in the neighborhoods, however, inside of the house, there are tranquil shimmer and gentle airflow. Through the light, the geometric shape blocks that are like white jades are juxtaposed with traces of time. The new and the old are crossing over, as the contemporary living breathes with the old house honed through year. The decoration full of symbols is kept out, same as the difference between the eastern and western in terms of artistic appeal. What makes the black box have light leaked into are that the renovation of the old house in Hutong with pragmatic purposes, and the direct response to the conditions of the space and the functional needing by human physique.

▼透过光线的卧室更衣柜,the translucent wardrobes in the bedroom ©Atelier Tree



The end of 2019 arrived in a flash, I left Hutong before COVID-19 happened. The people and the scenes in the life there are unforgettable for a long time. A lot of times, there were guitar playing, dancing, poems reciting, singing, conversations between young artists, welcome and farewell of friends with same hobbies. There are constantly come-and-go in Hutong as usual, but lives are inconstant during pandemic. Until now it reminds me that I should organize the sketches and photos of Leaky Chamber Make. The time of the fairly down-to-earth living should be counted as one of the earnest and ordinary kinds among the diverse and tolerant lifestyles happened in the rental within the inward-oriented, closed and highly dense hutong.

Based on my memory, the renovation of the Leaky Chamber is very frugal: 80-square-meter polycarbonate sheets cost 3000 yuan; 180-meter square metal tubes cost 800yuan; 45-squre-meter used wooden floors cost 1300yuan; Plus the costs of the aided material, water, electricity, installation fee, And several newly bought appliances, basically, that’s all.

Casen at Atelier Tree

▼金属方管与聚碳酸酯板制作的书桌、书架局部,detailed view of the metal framed table ©Atelier Tree

▼一层平面图,first floor plan ©Atelier Tree

▼二层平面图,second floor plan ©Atelier Tree

▼东西向剖面图,east-west section ©Atelier Tree

▼南北向剖面图,north-south section ©Atelier Tree

摄影版权:Atelier Tree

Project name: Leaky Chamber Renovation
Chief Architect: Casen Chiong
Designers Participated: Xiaokun Huang, Miao Zhang, Qiao Kang, Qijia Guan(Intern)
Email: info@ateliertree.com
Year of design and completion: Jan 2016
Location: No.23 Jiaodaokou Beisantiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Area: 42.5㎡
Photographer: Atelier Tree
Construction:Huaiqi Zhang ‘S team
Translator:Yunping Catherine Zhang
Client:Architect’s own house
Main Material and Equipment Brand: Parquet flooring, Polycarbonate sun panel, Metal square tube

More: 木又寸建筑事物室。更多关于他们:Atelier Tree on gooood.

Click to contact with the designer/author

Post a Comment