Evolving Notions of Place and Home in Chinese Residential Architecture

The relationship between the home and the city provides a mirror on the evolution of a society. This progression is perhaps most dramatically displayed in the recent history of residential planning and design in China.

In the traditional Chinese city, families lived in the Courtyard House. Common open space was entirely focused on the courtyard, which was located internally within the residential complex and screened off from the public realm outside. The streets, in turn, were defined by the solid walls of the Courtyard House. Members of the household were located according to traditional family hierarchies. While the organization of the Courtyard House to be sure, provided functional security as well as protection against dust and storms, it also reflected the role of the family as the basic organizing element within society.

In the years after the founding of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, residential planning and design was influenced by modernist planning theories. Particularly influential was the housing program pioneered in the Soviet Union, which stressed equalized living conditions at minimum standards, and industrialized and economical construction techniques. Arrayed in repetitive and regularly spaced concrete apartment blocks, residential development during this period focused on standardized buildings. Notions of scale, hierarchy and place were largely disregarded.

With the emergence of China’s middle class in the last two decades, there has been a rapidly-growing market for upscale condominiums with distinctive design and amenities. EE&K’s design for Bai Lu Jun Nan New Town has helped introduce a new approach to residential development, one focused on high quality places. The plan created an exclusive new residential community for 860 families located outside the historic city of Hangzhou. The 33-acre district is part of a larger development that stretches from the Dian River to the Liangzhu Mountains.

To break down the district’s scale and give individual condominium units a distinctive identity, EE&K divided Bai Lu Jun Nan into four quadrants comprised of higher-end Villas and Townhouses. The quadrants are defined by two gated drives and united by public green spaces and elegant landscaping.

The architecture of the Villa residences, adjacent to the public park, recall big country villas, separated by garden walls and picturesque and winding pedestrian paths. The Townhouses possess a more urban quality and are oriented around a hardscaped “Mews.” All residences share ample open green space, from small playgrounds to areas for Tai Chi and chess. In the middle of the district, the “Circle” provides a town center and place of arrival with adjoining convenience retail and service plazas.

Read more on Bai Lu Jun Nan New Town Development.