The architect Lele Peng, designed an one-thousand-square-meters building in Baotou, it locates in a barren hill which has apparently been mined badly, and a dry riverside forest farm. Jian Zhang, the owner of the building is a local farmer, and he is also the owner of the forest farm. The building is used for B&B, field of beer and skittles has been named as “slow life” by Zhang. The farmer chooses Lele to design the building, can be written as a fantastic story about architecture and the change of aesthetic. Lele is famous for designing houses for artists, which means no matter the owner or the designer, the farmer or the architect, they all have nothing to do with the previous identities of Party A and Party B. The thing is done anyway. The building is finished according to Lele’s persistence of her design concepts, and once the building is completed, it was detected by people who are passion in searching and living in creative B&B, and it became a word of mouth in their circles. The building has become a popular choice for local young people to have meetings and parties.
▼群山下的红石山房，Redstone House in the mountain landscape ©夏至
Some of them started to search the owner Zhang’s “true identity” online, which they suspect that Zhang is not a real farmer, but a person who has ever studied oversea. Of course, Zhang is a genuine local farmer. The reason I am talking about this is because, this customizing small building, since the owner has asked the architect who has designed so many galleries and artist’s studios, to the completion of this building, and the effect it has made, has become a social aesthetic event: people have appreciated and accepted a “down-to-earth” and creative contemporary building in a sense. This is to say, the creativity of a building is often associated with whether it can form a kind of social aesthetic event or not, no matter the size of it.
▼整体鸟瞰，aerial view ©夏至
Creativity is associated with “down to earth”, there is an ancient Chinese saying “in the right time, right place, with right people”, for this low-cost small building which has been called as “Redstone House” by Lele, its inventiveness is benefit from the moment (right time), the place (right place), and the heart (right people). The so called this moment, is all modern/contemporary culture and architecture of China has learnt from western modern/contemporary culture for more than one hundred years, during this process, it has experience the collision and contradiction between Chinese traditional culture and western culture, also it is in the node of history of re-understand and transform the Chinese traditional culture and architecture factors through western culture, which means in nearly thirty years, there are architecture ills has been accumulated, such as ubiquitous concrete jungle mode and the dazzling light of glass and metal, along with the aesthetic fatigue of plagiarism and splicing of western modern/contemporary building model during the process of large-scale urbanization, people would like to see the “down-to-earth” and creative contemporary buildings.
▼建筑与远山的关系，the dialogue between architecture and the landscape ©夏至
In fact, some people such as Japanese architect Nishizawa Ryue and Kengo Kuma have done some creative experiments about transformation of the traditional oriental architecture in recent years. The Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi who is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize of Building of 2018, combined his background of early study in western with his local culture, and developed modern architecture language that related to his own history, culture and local traditions. Even young Chinese architects have some “down-to-earth” experience and achievements on theory and practice, such as Yonghe Zhang’s experiment result of rammed wall building in early time, Shu Wang’s research and practice on traditional Chinese architecture, there are still many examples of this, in other words, paying attention to research and transform own traditional culture and architecture factors in the practices while accepting the nutrition of western modern/contemporary architecture culture, and suit to local conditions has become more common in China and even the whole regions outside the Europe and the United States during the process of the globalization of modern/contemporary architecture.
▼方整简洁，质感粗粝的土红色“盒子”， a series of function “boxes” with square and succinct overlook but also with a rough texture and dusty red color ©夏至
▼玻璃表面的置入带来感知上的对比，the glazed facade brings a contrast in perception ©夏至
▼石砌立面细部，stone facade detail ©夏至
This moment or the right time, is a certain experience that can be described and the language context for space processing and building materials choosing, which has formed in Lele’s architecture practices in recent years. The owner, a real farmer but with a heart that does not want to drift with the stream, unexpectedly accepted this unique architect and her architecture style through building magazines and internet, made several visits to Lele’s Studio which in Songzhuang and sincerely invited Lele to design the building, and the word of mouth that has been formed later, those are the “right people”, which is what I call “the heart”, it is the social aesthetic event formed by the aesthetic identify of a certain social class.
▼建筑入口空间，entrance area ©夏至
The right place or this place could be as big as China, including the natural, social, and even the historical traditional place. What I am talking here is the environment of Lele’s “Redstone House” mainly, now we can see Lele’s obvious way of language from “Redstone House” and her other architecture projects is adjust with the local conditions. For example her most representative work which is her own studio, 100s-1 Studio , in SongZhuang, G-dot Art Space , and Jing Xiang and Guangci Xus’ Studio . Of course, the space designing is the first step, but the building walls that form the space have different characteristics, Lele constantly investigates the most suitable materials for the place, and the materials that best related to the environment-sometimes it is natural environment and sometime it is social history environment, during the process of space designing. For the external wall of G-dot Art Space, Lele chose to use the concrete-tracery wall blocks which is popular in the seventies and can still be seen nowadays at local places, this choice created a connection of aesthetic taste between the contemporary building of G-dot Art Space and local history. This is a kind of creative transformation of materials, the concrete block use to be used as sporadic decoration in a wall, however Lele used it for the whole external wall of G-dot Art Space, which make the almost disappeared material become a contemporary “new materials”.
▼水池庭院，courtyard with a pool ©夏至
After accepted the owner’s invitation, Lele did not bring any frame of foresight, she went to the site in Baotou and explore the surrounding environment carefully, including the local residents, natural environment and local customs. During the process, she found the local-produced stones have different colours, densities and hardness, but they are all the most common materials for masonry wall. After a series of studies and tests, she decided to use the leftover stuffs of redstone from massive production of granite slab as the main building materials. First, it is cheap; second, the effect the leftover materials could bring is in addition to the texture of large stone masonry building that look from far away, the rich and various traces that left after making the slab can also be seen with a close look, which formed another close-viewing texture. It achieved same result by different method with the materials choosing of G-dot Art Space. The materials is determined, the owner hired a dozen farmers from the local village to build a dozen function “boxes” in different height with the most primitive way of masonry, off and on for one year time, when those boxes, with square and succinct overlook but also with a rough texture and dusty red color, are embedded in the riverbank forest farm, the “Redstone House” is just like growing out from the natural environment with the shade of the forest farm, its overall effect and the barren hill beside the dried up riverbank are definitely made for each other.
▼粗粝的“盒子”嵌入河滩林场，如同从自然环境中生长出来，the rough boxes are embedded in the riverbank forest farm, just like growing out from the natural environment ©夏至
▼复杂有序并带有公共或多种灵活使用的“连接空间”，complex and orderly connected spaces with public or variety and flexible uses ©夏至
“Redstone House” belongs to this natural environment, just like Lele’s other works, they all belong to the particular environments. Certainly, it more belongs to Lele’s design principle, which is closely related to her design language context in these years: she always choose the uppermost function space, and form a main idea after a comprehensive thinking according to the requirements of the owner, advantages and disadvantages of the site, natural environment like terrain and the direction of sunlight, and even the conditions like local customs and surrounding buildings. Once the idea is generated, she is always good at catch something like the “eye” in the go game, and layouts the main function spaces in the proper places firstly. Then she connects the main function spaces with the method like the corridor in the traditional building, to form complex and orderly connection spaces with public or variety and flexible uses. These connection spaces can be banded, can be like corridor but not corridor, like hall but not hall, or they can be corridor and also be hall, narrow like corridor and wide like hall, they can be twist and turns, can be the winding path leading to a secluded place, they connecting the main function spaces. I know Zhilong Qi’s studio that Lele designed early days, for this building, the “corridors” between “box” and “box” are just corridors, they are short, narrow, height are low and very efficient. After Lele’s practices along the way, the “corridors” between “box” and “box” of “Redstone House” are not corridors any more, the sense of corridors disappeared by expand the “corridors” to a large scale.
▼石头房子之间的庭院，the courtyard between the stone volumes ©夏至
The “Redstone House” has three sets of function boxes in total. There are different numbers of “boxes” in each set. The first set is for bedroom, there are six “boxes”. The second set is for entertainment, there are four “boxes”. The third set is for dining, there are two “boxes”. There is also an independent public “box” which is the entrance. The “boxes” are all in different size and height, Lele used “corridors” to connect the “boxes” which formed the public spaces that similar to the “corridors”, then she cased the “corridors” with the glass to form various and flexible functional transparent spaces. “Redstone House” highlights the strong contrast effect of whether the space or the material: enclosed rough stone “boxes” and transparent glass space, it both highlights the strong contrast of materials between the primitive rubble and the modern glass, and the contrast between the enclosed space and transparent, internal and external, it is the feeling of enclosed when enter the function space, and walk out of the function space, enter the transparent space of “corridor”, people can not only feel the twist and the turn of the “corridor”, but can also see the trees, mountains and the river outside when they are in the transparent space, they can even savor the stone “boxes” in different scales, and the garth, the courtyard, the pool and all sorts of interesting aisles. In a word, it did all sorts of space interest and sense of diverse in just one-thousand-square-meters building.
▼由“连接空间”围合的水池，the pool is surrounded by “corridors” with public uses ©夏至
▼透明“连接空间”与庭院的关系，the transparent “corridors” and the courtyard ©夏至
▼从大堂看石头房子与“连接空间”的层叠关系，the rich spatial experience offered by the transparent “corridors” and the stone volumes ©夏至
There are also some details of the “Redstone House” is commanded, such as the inclined glass window I have seen at the site, it has a gradient between the top and the bottom, Baotou is very windy and dusty obviously, a inward-inclined window would avoid from collecting dust, of course, this is all benefit from her design principle of “adjust with the local conditions”. The design of protruding the window from an external wall, excepting it can avoid from collect dust, this window is designed between the cracks of two rough stone-walls, which increasingly have a strange contrast effect, and there are more of these, still need those who like this building to find out more interesting and “down-to-earth” design details.
▼室内空间，interior view ©夏至
▼带有天窗的廊道，corridor with a skylight ©夏至
Whether it is shiny, or sunset, or even rainy, due to the sky of the suburbs of Baotao is extraordinary bright, the sky is blue, the cloud is white, and the outdoor light is exceptional brilliant, the bright reflection between the stone wall and the glass at this time, not just serve as a foil for each other, but also reflect surrounding mountains and trees on the large glass, at this moment, you even doubt: are the mountains and the trees part of the building? Or is the stone-wall building the part of mountains and trees? “Redstone House” is blended into the surrounding environment completely.
▼原始毛石与现代玻璃材质的强烈对比，a strong contrast of the stone facade and the reflective glazed surface ©夏至
▼近看砌筑石块的肌理，a close view of the texture of the facade ©夏至
Article by Xianting Li, 15 Aug, 2018
Note and References:
1. 100s-1, completed in 2011, 100s-1 Studio and Lele Peng’s house. Time Architecture 2012, Ep1
2. G-dot Art Space, competed in 2009, gallery space. Urban Environment Design, 2009, Ep12 & Domus, 2010, Ep9
3. Jing Xiang and Guangci Xus’ Studio, completed in 2013, artist studio. Time Architecture, 2014, Ep1, World Architecture 2016, Ep9, p106 & www.archdaily.com, April 2015
4. “Eye” in term of go game: “eye” is the empty space that surrounded by own stones, it is also the condition to alive. In go game, “eye” can be big and small, can be more and less. Normally, if a isolated group of stones have two “eyes”, the other side will never capture it, which ensure the absolute condition for alive. This article compare the “eye” in go game to the layout that Lele Peng puts in the building, she is good at layout every small building space into a flexible space or the “organic body” according to its different positions and requirements in the overall space.
▼整体夜景，night view ©夏至
▼建造阶段，construction phase ©夏至
▼首层平面图，ground floor plan
▼二层平面图，first floor plan
Project: Redstone House
Location: Baotou, Inner Mongolia
Project type : Leisure, Boutique Hotel
Design year: 2013.12
Complete year: 2016
Site area: 1875㎡
Ground floor area: 732㎡
Total area: 916㎡
Architect studio：Atelier 100s+1
Project architect: Lele Peng, Yi Cao, Xiao Zhu
Author: Xianting Li
Photographer: Zhi Xia