Taipei-based Wu & Liu Architects (WLA) have unveiled a new take on the traditional courtyard house that offers more than just a contemporary makeover—the project, called the Spring House, boasts self-sufficiency as a core design element. Built next to the busy Highway 39 in Taiwan’s southern city of Tainan, the solar-powered Spring House blends the modernizing forces that the highway brought to the Guiren District with the region’s traditional agricultural roots. The home is carefully sited to minimize noise, while maximizing natural light, rainwater collection, and rooftop solar exposure to reduce energy consumption.
WLA built the Spring House for a single client who wanted a clear delineation of space between her personal living area and the rooms for entertaining guests. As a result, the 288-square-meter home is split into two interconnected sections: a three-story structure that houses the homeowner’s main living areas and is set farthest from the busy roadways on the northeast side; and a two-story L-shaped structure on the opposite side that’s mostly used for visiting friends and family. The communal areas are kept on the ground floor, while the guest bedrooms, master bedroom, and library and located on the upper levels. In keeping with the vernacular courtyard house style, the home is centered on an open-air space used as a light well for bringing natural light and ventilation deep into the building.
Like its courtyard house neighbors to the north, the Spring House also makes use of wood and brick building materials. The architects combined those traditional materials with glass, concrete, and a steel framework for a contemporary finish. “The location was formerly agriculture-based settlement, and there are many local industrial factories appeared through the changing times,” said the architects. “After the completion of the high speed railway in recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear that the area is intertwined with old and new, tradition and technology, quiet and speed…such contrast characteristics, these qualities create a unique geographical character. Therefore, while we follow the example of Taiwan’s traditional architecture that combined with wood structure and load-bearing brick structure, and combine them into a modern steel structure with brick, on the one hand, we use this combination to produce a unique local architectural type whereby create the symbol of the janus characteristics of the environment on the other.”
The client’s desire for a self-sufficient, disaster-ready home was born from fears of climate change and seismic activity. Thus, WLA equipped Spring House with rooftop solar panels and rainwater collection. The roofs are sloped to facilitate rainwater runoff and to maximize rooftop solar exposure. Natural ventilation and solar shades were also carefully attended to as a means to mitigate Taiwan’s hot summers.