ARCHSTUDIO, ‘Twisting Courtyard’, Beijing, China

Twisting courtyard is located in Paizihutong, Dashilar Area, Beijing. It used to be a Siheyuan (a courtyard surrounded by buildings on all sides) with one single entry. The purpose of the improvement is to upgrade the necessary infrastructure for modern life, thus turning this traditional courtyard, which mainly serve as a residence, into an attractive public space in Beijing’s inner city.

The design aims to get rid of the solemn and stereotyped impression given by the Siheyuan, and create an open and active living atmosphere. Based on the existing layout of the courtyard, the undulating floor is used to connect indoor and outdoor spaces of different height. It extends inside of the house, twisting into walls and roof, creating a dynamic connection between the inside and outside space. What’s hidden within the curved wall is necessary auxiliary spaces such as kitchen, toilet and warehouse; while reception and dining spaces are shown outside the curved wall and connect to the courtyard. Both indoor and outdoor floors are paved with grey brick. A hawthorn tree in the courtyard was retained, being part of the twisting landscape.

The small yard is mainly used as an urban public space while maintaining the possibility of using as a residence. The four houses can be rented for public events for purposes such as recreation, meeting and gathering. They could, however, also serve as a family hostel with three bedrooms. Integrated furniture is used to enable the flexible switching of space scenes. Furniture boxes are inserted into the existing wood frames of east and west wings and a wooden platform with a table hidden inside could be used as tearoom or bedroom. Bed walls and soft curtains are also used in the main room on the north to meet multiple use requirements.

For the Siheyuan building type, the courtyard is the core of living fun. Twisting Courtyard makes micro-adjustments to relationships between the parts to change the temperament of the courtyard space and meet requirements of multiple use without changing the existing housing structure, making the traditional courtyard up to date and integrated into modern urban life.