Leaky Chamber Renovation

Leaky Chamber Renovation

Atelier Tree
No.23 Jiaodaokou North 3rd Alley, Dongcheng District, Beijing,China | View Map
Année du projet

Leaky Chamber Renovation

Atelier Tree en tant que Architectes.

Leaky Chamber is a house that leaking indeed, the roof used to have rain seep through . By the renovation, we hoped that it could let some light leak in.


When the renovation was decided at the end of 2015, he had lived in this dark hut in the Hutong compound for four or five years. My landlord conceded to the internal renovation except for the external wall and the original roof. Since I couldn’t construct a  big skylight for enjoying the star-scatter sky and fallen leaves, I chose to catch brightness inside the limited and closed black box.


It is a rental after all, so it is the prime principle of this renovation that being economic and practical.


The imagination to every corner of the space is sharpened by the direct experience of living here. Although there were only pencil sketches when the construction started, the workers understood design intention accurately because of direct communication on site and adjusted relatively little due to simultaneous conduct---the whole construction took less than a month. A carpenter made such joke to me:he had never seen this kind of “decoration”, which needs to be executed as carefully as like handcrafting a paper lantern. Actually their reaction was not weird, because the renovation used mostly square metal tube with 15mm width for the framework and 10mm-wide milky white  polycarbonate sheets shrouding, which seem like light and fragile material just like paper-made items, so I didn’t mind what he was thinking, by contrast I was happy about it owing to the workers probably got another kind of fun from the creation beyond the stereotype items.


The reasons why we chose these two materials are that square metal tube is light and convenient, additionally 15mm is the relatively small size based on general market specification, it meets the framework strength demand requirement for all kinds of items,  moreover, it is able to be cut on site and pieced and melding together fast;  polycarbonate sheet is light and convenient as well, so single person can move it and also can cut it on site and install it fast, thin but water-proof and weather-resistant, it allows light pass through and it is not easy to be broken which is a crucial factor; the combination of the two materials also let the sunlight shine through, which leads to that the newly added functional objects wouldn’t block the internal of the room so much from getting sunshine. Plus, both of them are at reasonable costs.


The layout got subtly adjusted to accommodate to living for one person and the need for meeting with friends. On the 1st floor, the compact semi-open kitchen and the washing area are separated between the entry hall and the living room it connects to by being lifted one step higher; bedroom and reading/working area are on the 2nd floor.


On the walls of each room on both stories, abundant shelves and cabinets were put up for storage to achieve to provide as much space as possible and reach out commonly used items as easy as possible. On account of the translucency of polycarbonate, the old window apertures are even able to be ignored when the shelves and cabinets are added on, as the functional structures seem overlapped roughly on the wall surface.


At the entrance, shoe/hat rack touches the wardrobe back-to-back, with that, it creates a little entryway for changing clothes and hats for daily in-and-out handily, also makes the small house not be seen thoroughly after opening the door. 


The kitchen and the entry hall are apart from a bar counter in the middle. With fitting a flat and long fish tank underneath, what vitalizes the still room a lot are a corner of natural landscape at consistent temperature and vivacious elves within it. The shelf hung across two window apertures and connects the small kitchen and entry hall, on which quietly arrayed in the back-lighting, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea, coffee, wine and plum wine, merge the stove top and the bar counter. The area is highly frequently used, expediently and comprehensively.


The structure below the staircase remains in the old way, with that, the lavatory and the bathing area are boxes made closed and water-proof of polycarbonate with tight sizes. The toilet tremendously improve the convenience of living in Hutong. This is the only  part that used transparent polycarbonate. Sticking closely to the primitive wall, it indistinctly shows the spotted texture of the red bricks. 


After removing the plastic-aluminum partition door and window in the room in the back of the 1st floor, the space became open and through without any absolute partition. The wine shelf and bookshelf are newly put up on the north wall. Varying in width, they make up the irregularity which formed between the back room and the front room, so that there are flat and long shelves. Meanwhile, they are able to conceal effortlessly behind the big pieces of polycarbonate boards.


Through demolishing the original flat ceiling consist of plasterboard, the old house’s sloping roof turn the space of the entire story to unfold upwards. What’s more valuable is that, the wood beams and supports next to the surface of the traditional architecture expose directly after removing the ceiling, which shows the architectural real feature and signs of time; By knocking off the overly cold ceramic tiles on the sides of the stairs and scraping off the damp and pulverized lime mortar on the old south wall, the plain cement base and spotty black bricks appear and display different features in the memory of the architecture’s body. 


The mobile long table changes the layouts in the living room as easy as pie, which is made on site with square metal tube and polycarbonate as well. When a completely empty room is needed, this long wheeled table can be swiftly moved under the shelf that hanging at one end of the room. So that, no matter if it’s reading alone or drinking with another person, chatting with 3-5 friends or partying with more friends and watching movie, all turn to be possible. This place become versatile container that holds various activities.


There is no window for getting light naturally in the living room, that’s where the combination of artificial lighting are, with multiple effects according to the using scenario. There are LED strip lights hidden at the skirting, cabinet, purlin on the sloping ceiling and so on, forming basic atmosphere lighting; the obviously seen LED spotlight on the wall is the mainly functional light. The black box gets opened up with cracks and gaps, light radiates through these gaps.


On the simply functional 2nd floor, the wardrobe added is a non-opaque box right next to the bed, so it’s pretty handy. The bookshelf on the west wall is north-south, with the one on south wall, they make reading immersive by surrounding books and filling light---the reading area is the brightest area in the bedroom.


Not only current living needs to be reasonable and comfortable, but also the dignity of the old house is necessary to keep as well, so its wrinkles or scars shouldn’t be covered up. It, as a strategy, controlled the renovation cost enormously, also released the freedom of both the current and the former of the house at the same time that, removing the surface decoration material that concealing the truth, and adding cabinets and wardrobes and such functional blocks with metal frame shrouded by opal polycarbonate sheets. 


Out of the house, there are ordinarily and mundane in the neighborhoods, however, inside of the house, there are tranquil shimmer and gentle airflow. Through the light, the geometric shape blocks that are like white jades are juxtaposed with traces of time. The new and the old are crossing over, as the contemporary living breathes with the old house honed through year. The decoration full of symbols is kept out, same as the difference between the eastern and western in terms of artistic appeal. What makes the black box have light leaked into are that the renovation of the old house in Hutong with pragmatic purposes, and the direct response to the conditions of the space and the  functional needing by human physique. 


The end of 2019 arrived in a flash, I left Hutong before COVID-19 happened. The people and the scenes in the life there are unforgettable for a long time. A lot of times, there were guitar playing, dancing, poems reciting, singing, conversations between young artists, welcome and farewell of friends with same hobbies. There are constantly come-and-go in Hutong as usual, but lives are inconstant during pandemic. Until now it reminds me that I should organize the sketches and photos of Leaky Chamber Make. The time of the fairly down-to-earth living should be counted as one of the earnest and ordinary kinds among the diverse and tolerant lifestyles happened in the rental within the inward-oriented, closed and highly dense hutong.


Based on my memory, the renovation of the Leaky Chamber is very frugal.

80-square-meter polycarbonate sheets cost 3000yuan;

180-meter square metal tubes cost 800yuan;

45-squre-meter used wooden floors cost 1300yuan;

Plus the costs of the aided material, water, electricity, installation fee,

And several newly bought appliances, basically, that’s all. 


Casen at Atelier Tree

July 28th, 2020

Project Information:


Project name: Leaky Chamber Renovation

Chief Architect: Casen Chiong

Designers Participated: Xiaokun Huang, Miao Zhang, Qiao Kang, Qijia Guan(Intern)

Email: info@ateliertree.com

Year of design and completion: Jan 2016

Location: No.23 Jiaodaokou North 3rd Alley, Dongcheng District, Beijing

Area: 42.5㎡

Photographer: Atelier Tree

Construction:Huaiqi Zhang 'S team

Translator:Yunping Catherine Zhang 

Client:Architect’s own house

Main Material and Equipment Brand: Parquet flooring, Polycarbonate sun panel, Metal square tube

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