The best architecture tells a story. It honors tradition and culture. It speaks to history. Although it doesn’t require onlookers to understand the heritage behind the design, it does require the architect to have a deep understanding of the traditional elements that define the style. Such is the case with Cloudy Courtyard, a residence and hotel in Shiguan Xiang, Anqing Yuexi, Anhui. Architectural firm One Take Architects recently completed the project, which began with an idea and developed through the study and replication of “traditional houses in west Anhui.”
The result is a series of spaces that are intertwined and connected by courtyards. Inside and out, these spaces connect to nature, not only with the use of varying colors and textures but with focused and generalized views of the surrounding area. Cloudy Courtyard is located at the meeting point between Anhui, Jiangxi and Hubei at the end of a rural road in a town called Yuexi, a place well-acclaimed for its architectural richness.
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“Yuexi has been on the main road of Hakka immigrants since ancient times. In the early Ming Dynasty, a large number of immigrants from the Poyang Lake Basin in northern Jiangxi moved from Waxieba to Anqing Mansion and elsewhere. And immigration factors made Anqing a subculture area of Jiangxi culture,” the architects explained of the significance and design influence of the location.
The rural setting has a backdrop of mountains that further inspired the free-flowing but organized design elements, with an emphasis of framing the vast, countryside and mountainous views from inside the house and in the tranquil inner courtyard. The property sits at a high elevation, contributing to the use of natural ventilation as a result of carefully planned patios and shade-providing plants. The blueprint of the project consists of multiple residences with continuous patios and courtyards. The stepped gable roofline borrows elements from the Ma Tau Wall in Huizhou architecture.
Using natural materials from the land around them, the owner and designers sourced pebbles from the mountain stream for use at the base of the wall. They also contracted the cutting down of bamboo from the mountain forest nearby to build the fence. Throughout the project, the architects relied on stone, sand, steel, cement and gravel to replicate the contrasting drama and peace of nature with the goal to make “the architecture symbiotic with the land instead of just building on the land.”
Photography by Wang Shilu (Ranshi Studio) and Nan Xueqian via One Take Architects