Cave homes may conjure up thoughts of primitive living, but that’s not the case with this dreamy residence in China’s Shanxi Province. As part of a home renovation TV series called “Wow New Home,” architect Shi Yang of hyperSity Architects renovated a decrepit cave house into a stunning modern home. Despite the dramatic transformation, the new home still preserves elements of the traditional cave design. Read on to see the first episode of Wow New Home (in Chinese, starts at 4:00) and how a ramshackle cave was turned into an incredible new abode.
Located in the Loess Plateau, the former house was one of many cave homes, called yaodong, typical of the area. These traditional dwellings have long been used for their energy-efficient properties; the earth naturally keeps the cave warm in winters and cool in summer. The house in question belonged to a family of five who lived in a series of dark and damp caves that were in a serious state of disrepair, with tilting and crumbling walls.
The architects wanted to retain the traditional elements of the cave house while providing a modern refresh. To that end, they preserved the shape of the arched walls and mainly used rammed earth for construction. The interior layout of the home was redesigned in the style of a Chinese courtyard house to open the interior up to natural light and ventilation with space for bamboo gardens. The cave space to the north was mostly left intact, whereas the spaces to the south and west were torn down and reconstructed to make space for five small courtyards connected via a zigzag path.
The renovated home matches the original building height but is strikingly contemporary in appearance. A mix of clay and sand from the nearby mountains were used for the reddish rammed earth walls, creating a visual departure from the original brownish gray earthern walls. The home is entered through the arched doorway that connects to the first courtyard. A path weaves through the new southern-oriented courtyards and cave rooms—which house a kitchen, bedrooms, storage room, dining room, and bathroom—and finally ends at the northernmost space in the rear that’s divided into the grandmother’s bedroom and living room. A skylight punctuates the northernmost space to let in extra light and ventilation.