A Plain and Intense House of Painter
Yu Ting (principal, Wutopia Lab) × SPACE
SPACE: This is a renovation project in which artist Li Bin’s two studios have been renovated into a house and a museum. Isozaki remodeled the first studio into the museum, and Wutopia Lab redesigned the second one into the house. What is the most significant physical change applied to the original building? How did you meet the requirements of a residential space, in terms of its programme, atmosphere and scale?
Yu Ting (Yu): Actually the second studio was designed by me, but this time the original second studio was torn down, and we built a new one in the same place. Given the fact that Li Bin, artist and client, and his wife would like to have their separate room, its understood that the wife would prefer a space without light while artist prefers light. They would like to spend the rest of their lives in this house and keep stuff related to their history. So the house should be warm, firm and in a comfort level of humidity, and an elevator is a must have. Though the sacred space was ignored in recent years in China, we’d like to revive them in this artist’s house.
SPACE: The interior space gives a strong impression through its light and colours. It seems you actively chose to use primary colours throughout the house interior. What is the architectural function of this?
Yu: They are the sacred spaces. The red space is the living room, which is used by the artist and his wife. In Chinese culture, we regard daily life as sacred moment. The living room is the space in which the couple spends the most time. The blue space is a gap between a staircase and elevator. We put a skylight on the ceiling, after which a perfect space for meditation emerges.
SPACE: Skylights and windows show up in various ways and from different positions. What is their function in this house? And on what basis did you determine the position, size and colour of these windows, including the red skylight installed at the southwest corner of the living room?
Yu: The height of the windows was determined by the height when a person stands, sits and lies down. We used the old windows from the original second studio. As there is a wall 1m behind the south wall of living room, we figured that even if we put a window on the south wall, there would still be scenery that we would be able to see. So we chose to install a skylight at the southwest corner. During the afternoon, an obvious cylinder of light will pour from this corner.
SPACE: On the contrary, the exterior is finished in light grey creating a contrast with the interior. The leaf pattern imprinted on the façade with a mould and the strong curve of steel bridge are very impressive. They seem to be a gesture to devise harmony with surrounding nature.
Yu: To make way for the tree standing in the middle of the courtyard, we choose to build a curvy bridge. As the air pollution in Shanghai is quite heavy, a white facade is not so easy to maintain. We were inspired by the grey color of the artist’s paintings. So we chose grey for the colour of façade.
SPACE: The house announces a clear identity as a home for an artist. Where can we find the characteristics entitled ‘Plain’?
Yu: In contrast to other villas in China, the artist’s house has divested itself of decoration. One day a friend of the artist paid the house a visit, and he said your house is so plain. That’s where the name plain came from.
SPACE: Thinking of your previous works, the ideas are bold and unique. They reveal an ingenuity that is born of a childlike mind, rather than according to macroscopic concepts such as the city or architecture. What architectural ideals are being pursued by Wutopia Lab?
Yu: Besides considering the city or architecture as a field, we pay more attention to the human scale. We discuss people desires and fear. That’s why our project is quite creative.
Wutopia Lab is located in Shanghai. Founded by the famous architect Yu Ting(俞挺) in 2013. They think all the hard training, conceptual work and the design process should be presented with a relaxed gesture at the end. They believe if the world is not good enough, let us create a better one. Their works include the Wu Ji Academy and Instant Red.
Architect: Wutopia Lab (Yu Ting)
Design team: XIA Murong, HUANG He
Interior designer: SONG Mengjiao, PAN Dali
Location: Shanghai, China
Site area: 125m²
Building area: 250m²
Design period: 2014
Construction period: 2014 – 2017
Client: Li Bin
edited by Park Semi | photographed by CreatAR images (unless otherwise indicated) |
materials provided by Wutopia Lab