When dutch architecture firm MVRDV started conceiving their plan for 2,700 new houses in Liuzhou, China, one of their primary goals was to protect the city’s precious limestone mountains from further erosion while preserving the rolling beauty of the landscape. The homes are individual ‘boxes clustered together in a natural configuration that follows the topography of the slopes. The floors and walls of the houses make use of local rocks, and each unit in this curious vertical village dubbed Long Tan Park has its own magnificent view of the sprawling hills.

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MVRDV carefully researched and mapped the slopes in order to decide what plan would be most optimal to preserve the mountain range and create a pleasing layout. They came up with four different zones and the construction techniques that would need to be employed for each: non-steep zones with hard rocks that can be used with columns only; steep zones with hard rocks that can easily be used for construction and stability through dowels; zones with cracks that need to be avoided and lead to outside areas in the new city; and zones at the bottom that need to be cleaned of loose rocks from potential ‘hollow’ spaces with communal access grottos.

The intriguing irregularity and resulting differentiated terraces are our favorite feature of this design. And the spacing of the homes isn’t just for aesthetics – it serves several functions too. A three-meter distance between the houses and the rocks allows for natural ventilation and the empty spaces in between the boxes creates a web of ‘streets’ and stairs through the vertical villages.