Guesthouses at Floating Cloud Township Villa

MDO converts rammed-earth houses in rural China into holiday villas

Chinese architecture studio More Design Office (MDO) has converted a cluster of traditional rammed-earth houses in China's Zhejiang Province into a series of contemporary guesthouses called Floating Cloud Township Villa.

The dwellings are located in the village of Qinglongwu in Tonglu County, in an area currently being transformed into a cultural and tourist destination known as the Fangyukongxiangsu Cultural and Creative Complex.

Aerial photo of Qinglongwu in China
MDO has converted a cluster of houses in China into guesthouses. Photo is by Xun Zheng

Commissioned in 2017, Shanghai-based studio MDO has both "sensitively modernised" six existing buildings in the village, and designed two additional concrete buildings housing a bar and lounge space.

"Tonglu offers the visitor a unique experience different from a traditional luxury hotel," said MDO co-founder Justin Bridgland.

Rammed-earth guesthouses in China
The old buildings have rammed-earth walls

"Here we can have a closer connection to nature, to be able to relax and unwind, free from the distractions of modern life."

"The buildings have this great sense of aging, the old walls and windows tell the stories of the past through the marks and imperfections on their surface," he continued.

Guesthouses at Floating Cloud Township Villa
The studio has retained many original details

The studio aimed to retain as many of the original materials and finishes of the village's structures as possible, setting any new additions apart into order to allow guests to clearly see the difference between the two.

The original timber roofs proved too weak and damaged to be restored, and were instead replaced by steel structures that raise each roof slightly, creating a distinctive strip of clerestory glazing beneath the eaves.

Concrete guesthouse at Floating Cloud Township Villa
Two additional concrete buildings have been built alongside them

"The new roof was lifted off the existing walls to create a more generous ceiling height," explained the studio.

"Diffused light softly penetrates into the depths of the space, and guests can see the bamboo forest from any angle in the roof, providing a constant connection to the landscape," it continued.

Guesthouse interior at Floating Cloud Township Villa
New windows echo the existing square openings. Photo is by Zhao A

To bring more light into the previously gloomy interiors, new windows informed by the existing square openings were added. These have thin metal frames to differentiate them from the original wood-framed windows.

Internally, the original walls, doors and window shutters have all been kept and repaired, with the rough finish of the rammed-earth walls contrasted by new partition screens and furniture.

The cobbled streets that connect each building have been reimagined as social spaces for guests, creating "moments for people to come together".

The new two-storey buildings sit at the base of a mountain path, and are built out of rough concrete to contrast the rammed earth of the traditional structures.

Rammed-earth wall
The rammed-earth walls are left exposed inside. Photo is by Andy He

Large windows in the walls and ceilings of seating areas frame views of the nearby forest, as well as turning the structures into a "beacon" that is visible to visitors.

"The architectural form is regarded as the rock exposed from the hillside by the baptism of water and wind," said the practice.

Guesthouse interior at Floating Cloud Township Villa
The old finishes are teamed with contemporary furnishings. Photo is by Xun Zheng

"We regard the new building as a beacon that guides travellers. No matter what direction people approach it from, it welcomes them to enter it."

Another accommodation option in the Qinglongwu area was recently designed by Atelier Tao+C, which converted a rammed-earth structure into a capsule hotel and library with a projecting glazed extension.

The photography is by Zhi Xia unless stated.

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More images and plans

Floor plan of Floating Cloud Township Villa
Floor plan
Guesthouses at Floating Cloud Township Villa
Rammed-earth houses in China
Rammed-earth houses in China
Rammed-earth facade
Rammed-earth houses in China
Rammed-earth houses in China
Rammed-earth guesthouse at Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Guesthouse roofs at Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Concrete guesthouses at Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Concrete guesthouses at Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Concrete guesthouse at Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Rammed-earth wall
Photo is by Andy He
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Photo is by Andy He
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Photo is by Xun Zheng
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Photo is by Xun Zheng
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Photo is by Xun Zheng
Inside Flowing Cloud Township Villa
Photo is by Xun Zheng