Suitcase House, Commune by the Great Wall, Beijing

Gary Chang, Hoi-wood Chang, Andrew Holt

Research output: Non-textual formDesign


Project @EDGE Design Institute Ltd.

- Winner, Architecture + Awards 2004 (Housing and Residential Category);
- “Distinguished Design From China”, Design For Asia Award 2004, Hong Kong Design Centre;
- “Commendation”, ar+d Award 2003;
- Winner (Blanch Gallardo Award)--Most Outstanding Design Award, Asia Pacific Interior Design Awards 2002;
- Winner, The Dedalo-Minosse Int’l Prize 2002 (For Architect under 40), Vicenza, Italy;
- Venice Biennale 2002;
- ArchiLab 2001

Casting a question mark on the proverbial image of the house, this scheme attempts to rethink the nature of intimacy, privacy, spontaneity and flexibility. It is a simple demonstration of the desire for ultimate adaptability, in pursuit of a proscenium for infinite scenarios, a plane of sensual (p)leisure.

The dwelling represents a stacking of strata. The middle stratum embodies a reincarnated piano nobile par excellence for habitation, activity and flow. Adapting a non-hierarchical layout with the help of mobile elements provided by the envelope, it transforms itself readily according to the nature of the activities, number of inhabitants, and personal preferences for degrees of enclosure and privacy. A metamorphic volume, it slides effortlessly from an open space to a sequence of rooms, depending on the inhabitants’ specific requirements. Each room is then differentiated by the provision of a unique amenity.

The bottom stratum acts as a container for dedicated spaces and fulfills the requirements for storage. Compartments are concealed by a landscape of pneumatically assisted floor panels. At any point in time only the essential elements required will have a spatial presence.

Apart from the Basic box/chamber of Bedroom, Bathroom, Kitchen and Storeroom, there’re a series of dedicated chambers for specific use/mode: Meditation Chamber (with glazed floor looking down the valley below), Music Chamber, Library, Lounge, as well as a fully-equipped Sauna.

Additional furniture is mobile and plays an active role in the dwelling’s high degree of adaptability. The top stratum houses a series of blinds accentuated by concealed light that may be raised or lowered to subdivide the space and create further theatrical aroma. Similarly, the building envelope is a stratification of vertical layers. The outer skin is a wrap of full height double-glazed folding doors while the inner layer is comprised of a series of screens forming a matrix of openings. The abstract façade pattern is thereby rooted in its user-oriented operational logic. The dwelling is provided with multiple entrances, each with equal status and again the choice of each totally lead to a re-reading of the spatial organisation.

To blur the boundaries between House, Interior and Furniture, the entire structure and elements are monotonically cladded in timber inside and outside of the steel structure supported by and cantilevered out from the concrete base which house facilities including a pantry, maid’s quarter, boiling room and the sauna.

The dwelling is to be located at the head of the Nangou Valley. To maximize views to the prominent Great Wall and solar exposure in the continental temperate climate, a north-south orientation is adopted. It will be possible to see the great wall from all major spaces within the dwelling, not to forget the totally free and unobstructed roof terrace accessible by the pull-down staircase from below.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Architecture


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