From an abandoned amusement park, here's an ecological success to shout about with impeccable contemporary domestic design features to match.
A luxury development of villas in north-east China has reclaimed woodland from ill-conceived urban development in an unusual combination of great architecture and pioneering environmental work.
The 'Forest Valley Villas' will be country homes for China's rapidly expanding ultra-rich elite. They will find dining rooms facing forests, bedrooms looking out over water and sitting rooms with a view of distant mountains. There is no clue now of how difficult this project was, right from the start.
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The architects on this project in Jilin Province began with an unpromising site. One part was virgin woodland. The other half, however, was a recently constructed amusement park that had already shut down. Construction waste littered the area all around.
Origin Architects were not to be deterred. Their first task was to reclaim the entire site for nature. Once the construction detritus and the remains of the abandoned amusement park had been removed, rivers were dredged and new vegetation planted so that the two halves of the site could become one.
The villas are designed to appear to float over this new ecological paradise, rather than interfere with its contours. Each sits on a dozen or so stilts of varying heights. The architects speak of how the structures “grow freely” towards both the sun and the trees. Origin Architects say they aim to create “symbiotic harmony” between humans and nature.
If the words are high flown, they are entirely justified by the result. This isn’t just a piece of good-hearted environmentalism but a remarkably successful architectural project, beginning with how these luxury homes are placed. The villas are in close proximity to each other, yet total privacy is achieved due to meticulous placing on this challenging site.
Spectacular interiors bring the renewed woodland of the outdoors inside. There’s horizontal pale wood panelling to floors, walls and ceilings. The effect is to take the eye right through the spaces to the huge windows that frame the greenery beyond. The sense is of being in deep, warm, nurturing caves, totally at one with the outdoors while being protected from the elements.
Photography by Xia Zhi