Blockhouse by
AZL Architects

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Walls appear to be peeling back from the facade of this house by Chinese office AZL Architects, one of 24 architect-designed buildings underway in a forest near Nanjing, China.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

The house forms part of the Chinese International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA) programme, which was first conceived back in 2003 as a showcase of modern architecture featuring 11 buildings by Chinese studios and 13 more by architects from abroad. A total of 20 houses are planned for the site in Laoshan National Forest Park, as well as an art museum by Steven Holl, a conference centre by Arata Isozaki, a hotel by Liu Jiakun and a leisure centre by the late Ettore Sottsass.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

For his contribution, Zhang Lei of AZL Architects designed a four-storey house with layered concrete walls, intended to resemble the curling forms of traditional Chinese scrolls. Each opening provides a wide aperture, framing views of the surrounding woodland from balconies that wrap the perimeter.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

"The concept of Blockhouse is almost the living attitude of many Chinese; a minimal opening to the surrounding landscape is the only perforation of the richness inside the house," say the architects.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

Rooms are contained within a glass volume at the centre of the structure. A living and dining room occupies the ground floor, while the five bedrooms required by the brief are located upstairs along with bathrooms and a study.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

A staircase leads up to the roof, where a wooden terrace and swimming pool sit just above the treetops.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

Blockhouse is part of the first batch of completed CIPEA houses. Although each one is designed as a functioning home, none of the houses will be lived in and will instead serve as an extension of Holl's Nanjing Sifang Art Museum, scheduled to open later this year.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

See more stories about architecture in China, including a kindergarten in Tianjin and a museum for wooden sculptures in Harbin.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

Photography is by Yao Li.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

Here's a little more information from AZL Architects

CIPEA No.4 House / AZL architects

Situated in Laoshan Forest to the west of central Nanjing city, China International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA) began in 2003 to bring twenty-four renowned international & domestic architects together onto one site. CIPEA consist of four public buildings and twenty small houses, in accordance with the brief, the houses should have at least five bedrooms, public spaces and hospitality accommodations on 500 square meters.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

The Number Four "Blockhouse" sits on a particularly valley site, nestling the house into the landscape. In the spirit of a pagoda, four cubic floors are stacked vertically, allowing for minimal site excavation and land use. The ground floor features living and dining spaces quietly enveloped in the surrounding forest and overlooking a stream, and a communal roof terrace rises to just above the trees. The roof merges into the landscape as another living space, complete with pool and wooden deck within the panorama of the forest. The geometric shape is sculpted from concrete and finished in a white protection surface.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects

The concept of Blockhouse is almost the living attitude of many Chinese; a minimal opening to the surrounding landscape is the only perforation of the richness inside the house. The horizontal break of each floor - in combination with larger unique curved apertures on each floor - frame vistas in the spirit of Chinese landscape scrolls. Prescribed views have a long tradition in Chinese art history and traditional Chinese gardens, designed to make the viewer reconsider and contemplate the landscape.

Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Site masterplan rendering

Location: Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China
Architect in Charge: Zhang Lei
Project Team: Zhang Lei, Jeffrey Cheng, Wang Wang, Wang Yi
Collaborator: Architectural Design & planning Institute, NJU
Project Area: 500 sqm
Project year: 2008-2012

Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Site masterplan - click for larger image
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Site plan - click for larger image
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Ground floor plan
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
First floor plan
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Second floor plan
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Third floor plan
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
East and south facades
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
West and north facades
Blockhouse by AZL Architects
Cross section east to west
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  • Sara

    Where’s the kitchen?

  • rohtmuz

    What’s it like to be inside there when the lights are switched off?

  • @gizulor

    I love it, particularly the playful plastic manipulation of the facade to frame the views.

    I feel they went overboard with the spotty decoration though – it detracts/will date.

    For a more structurally rigorous approach (albeit at a much larger scale) I’ve always enjoyed Harry Seidler’s 1984 Hong Kong Club

  • rodsta

    Harelip facades?

  • asolitarywave

    Why would you need a kitchen when you’ve got 7 bathrooms?

    • jacj

      Yeah, but a bar is needed.

  • mik

    Awful ground floor plan. A super mini kitchen for so many people and a bathroom with a toilet just in front of the dining space. I dont understand how they don’t see that.

  • DaJuan Hayes

    The architectural equivalent of gum disease.

  • Edyta

    Looks surprisingly similar to the building of Otto Bock in Potsdamerplatz in Berlin.

  • Floyd Gary Thacker

    Note this really doesn’t have much storage or any energy efficiency. I agree – where is the kitchen? Please revisit after 5 years – would like to see maintenance and running costs.

  • hhd

    I worked at AZL. A mini kitchen is on the ground floor. This building is not a regular villa. It is just a part of the whole group – see plan. We could say it’s kind of a holiday house. People will eat in the restaurant in the neighbouring building.

    • Laurence Flint

      Hi, I am trying to contact AZL. Have you got a contact email address please? Their website isn’t working at the moment.

  • Sultony

    Facadism with minimalist emptiness.

  • edv

    Bathrooms are located at the exterior walls but have no windows for ventilation or daylighting. Great!

  • Max

    终于完成了!从德国来的祝贺! Max

    • hhd

      真巧啊,Max, 同贺同贺! Haodong

  • @leonardoponceRA

    There are still forests in China? The site must have cost a bomb!

    • jdoe

      You clearly have never been to China.

  • Mark Wonner

    Think of this as a stand-alone hotel suite masquerading as a sculpture.