Invited by DragonTV, the Cattle back mountain volunteer house is a social welfare project dedicating to building a house for young volunteers in the mountain of Pumaidi Village, Luding County, Sichuan Province. Known as the best viewing platform for clouds, Niubeishan, meets a large number of travelers and explorers every year, yet, due to the short of resource and development, public infrastructure and social support is still rather lagged behind. Pumaidi Village, the closest village from Niubeishan that inhabits villagers, presents itself as a typical village in Southwest China, with pitched roof, green tile, and harmonious living environment. Like most of the villages in suburban area in China, the majority of the population is composed of the elderly and children, while the young and strong are out serving in the big cities trying to make a living for home. And thus, most of the houses in the village have been standing for long and maintenance is in desperate need. Considering all these, Dayan, an experienced volunteer, decided to build a social project base here, not only to provide help for those travelers in need, but also the elderly and children in the village. The house will serve as a Youth Hostel at the same time so as to keep the financial balance of the social project.
Upon renovation, it is an old traditional folk house, with wood pitched roof and broken tiles, facing with a platform (locally named as ‘Bazi’) in front, that is fragmented and shaded as couple dark rooms by couple thick walls. The loft on the rooftop is old and shabby, with no kitchen or bathroom inside. On the south of the platform (Bazi), there is a squared brick house farmers made themselves, that’s neither coordinate to the surrounding nor resistant to earthquake.
Our design strategy is, while improving the basic programs and functions, to make the architecture more open and public, capable of serving more people, and blend in the new building equipped with architectural and structural innovation with
the surrounding environment and its traditional culture.
We kept and strengthened the internal wood structure, got rid of the thick walls facing with the Bazi and its partitions to open up the first floor and serve as an important public space where people can read, meet and grab a drink. The steel net framed glass wall can be used to store firewood, and when it open completely, it merges the interior and exterior into one.
The old sty on the north of the Bazi is removed, while the wood structure and the roof are kept to transform into a kitchen and a bathroom, with the only proper flush toilet in the whole village installed.
We also removed the brick house on the south of the Bazi, and replaced it with a pavilion with wood structure and tiles on top that shelters people from wind and rain. With all the above, we maximize the use of the Bazi, and also form a unique viewing platform.
In the project, we used the most basic architecture materials and the most common building technique (stone walls, pitched roofs and green tiles that consists with the original language), and we try our utmost to make full use of the local human resource. Modern digital logic and design strategies are also implemented in the process.
Looking at the main facade, from left to right, you will be able to see an organic roof shape merging with the mountain and clouds at its back, and the perfect transition from traditional art to modern art, or even the exploration of the future.
As for the internal space, it’s a brand new expression of wood structure in digital times. Another part worth mentioning, the wood material used in the project is produced locally in Sichuan, a new type of bamboo-based fiber composite with high resistance to strength, moisture and fire that’s also recyclable and environmentally friendly. Being the first time for the producers to implement the material to irregular shaped architecture like this one, the producers took high participation in the process involving sampling on site, custom pre-made in the factory and manual adjustment on site.
In talking about the special design of this part, principal architect Daode Li stated:
The weaving roof and the mountain, along with the clouds at its back are connected in a way aesthetically, but yet, we hope this connection can extend to a more spiritual level. When traveler, volunteers, or even villagers approach from afar, looking at this unique and familiar building shimmering with warmth, they are then seized by the feeling of belongings, like a long drifting ship in the ocean spots a light tower that gives them immediate courage to move forward.