Ruichang Housing Complex
Ruichang Housing Complex
For a new urban development area outside the city of Ruichang, Jiangxi Province, China, we developed a multistory apartment typology that addresses the requirements of modern living, its social environment and the subtropical location. Chinese developer Hua Yan Group divided the 20-hectare site of the competition into 16 plots for different kinds of commercial, public and residential use. The masterplan has been developed by British architecture and landscape firms Chris Blandford Associates and Chetwoods Architects.
The city of Ruichang is situated on the south shore of the Yangtze River and has a population of approximately 430,000 people, making it a small- to medium-size Chinese city. The Mount Lu High Speed Train Station will be built in the city center, which is expected to boost a growth in the near future.
How do we want to live in the future?
We want to live surrounded by green - but in the middle of the city too. We want to enjoy fresh air and sun - but have the car right next to our apartment door too. We want to enjoy a peaceful time at home - but have a cafe around the corner too. We want to be flexible with a car - but walk to go shopping or meet friends too. We want to have our privacy at home - but not the anonymity of big apartment buildings in the city.
What if we could have a simple rational and cost effective structure, and every one of us could build our own house on it and into it? And to make it more efficient, we cluster them into groups of four. We all want to have a view to the south, for sun, and to see the river landscape. So two of the apartments extend above the two others.
If we access all apartments on one floor instead of both, we can make it even more efficient. So we only have one elevator stop for all.
It would be also nice to know the people we live with, the other house owner around us. Why don’t we enlarge the circulation space a bit, since we save some on every other floor, and create some for our neighborhood to meet, chat, hang out, play?
Walking around our little houses is just like outside the city, all outdoor and with lots of green. But stepping down all the way downstairs and into the street, suddenly we are in the center of the city.
The residential complex is organized as a courtyard typology occupying the full block, with a public green yard in the center. A ring of continuous floor plates connects 9 “towers” of clustered apartments, providing generous outdoor spaces around the enclosed structures. The whole building is a cost-effective concrete construction, with more refined full-height glazing and wood wall paneling around the apartments.
The design features a hierarchy of green outdoor spaces, from the central public green yard, to the semi-public vertical circulation (the “vertical neighborhoods” named “social green”) and the private balconies.
Groups of four apartments, two single story apartments and two duplex apartments, form a module that is stacked to form a “tower” whose exterior form shifts back and forth evoking movement within the overall mass. All apartments are oriented to the south, with the two duplex apartments extending above the two single-story apartments. Grouping four apartments into one cluster means that access to all apartments only has to happen every other floor, making the vertical circulation more efficient.
The wider of the private balconies rotates around the building mass, rendering a multitude of private outdoor spaces on every floor.
The apartment-“towers” are arrayed around a courtyard that sits upon a shared ground floor base of car and bicycle parking, building services such as mail and recycling, and retail spaces at the corners of the block.
Each apartment is oriented to the south to take advantage of the southern exposure and to maximize views to the riverside landscape. Placed within a rational structural grid of reinforced concrete, the apartments are free to shift around the slab creating a variety of private balcony spaces.
Approximately half of the apartment units are duplex units, providing double height spaces, and the opportunity for the smaller floor to function as a more private, separated area for external family members to live or friends to visit. The combination of duplex and single story apartments and varying types of private balconies provides uniqueness and individuality to appeal to a wide range of potential residents.
A special feature is the vertical circulation of the 9 “towers”, called the “vertical neighborhoods / social green”. Generous outdoor space combined with large openings in the floor plates allow for social interaction and multiple use. All of the apartment entrances are off the social green, acting as a front porch for each apartment. This is meant to provide the opportunity for chance encounters and camaraderie among neighbors. The vertical neighborhoods could also be used for plants, outdoor picnics, playing etc.
The progression from apartment units to clusters to vertical neighborhoods results in a porous building with three distinct zones of space. The most public is the central courtyard, which can be accessed from all sides of the block. Social green terraces are public/private. Closed off to non-residents, they are front porches where neighbors spend time together enjoying the unique mix of urbanity and nature. Apartment balconies are completely private and provide a relaxing haven for residents to spend time with their families enjoying the sunshine or views of the river landscape.
The combination of greenery and housing results in a series of benefits for both the user and the community. Large vertical openings help bring natural light throughout the building. Air currents find their way through these openings and cross ventilation is ensured. The presence of potted trees combined with the geometry of the building helps regulate the temperature by shading the summer sunlight, while allowing the winter sun to warm the interiors. Rainwater filters down through the building and can easily be recycled through a special water tank on the ground floor. Large areas are destined to bike parking (low-carbon transportation being a priority), and recycling facilities. The larger spaces on the ground floor are destined for businesses that will help the community in using their car as little as they wish.
Thanks to the abundance of terraces and large exterior spaces like the courtyard, the apartments are transformed into individual houses surrounded by gardens. All floors become ground floors. This way, users are encouraged to spend time outdoors, meeting with their community, exercising, and gardening. The constant presence of nature is a positive factor in both the psychological and physiological health of the users. The abundance of trees and flowers also attracts birds and insects, the building becomes a micro cosmos where the user can find the comfort of modern living and still maintain the pleasures of traditional housing.