Architect Li Ji brought his childhood memories deep into the metropolis when he designed the Urban Home of Nature in Beijing, China.
The prototype is a ground-floor apartment that belongs to a 7-storey residential building. It has standard concrete shear wall structure, common arrangement of rooms, and a slightly higher floor height as a result of backing against the ground floor retail shops.
The architect firstly removed all partition walls. By leaving only the load-bearing structure, the true skeleton of an urban concrete jungle revealed itself. Large sliding doors break through the boundary wall that originally separated living room and main bedroom with the courtyard. Broad and thick plank flooring continues from the courtyard to inside, while a scent of nature rushes in and fills up the interior space, forming an indoor courtyard that flows freely as nature’s breath passes through the jungle of concrete walls.
The boundary between inside and outside, man-made and nature is therefore dispelled; activities in the living room and bedroom become activities in the indoor courtyard, whereas the outdoor courtyard becomes an extension of the living room. Coming home from work has turned into an unexpected journey of relaxation: when you open the front door after walking through the enclosed and over-decorated common lobby, suddenly you return to nature.
Some untreated bulky tree trunks with burl set up horizontally in the air, with special made hidden steel joints connect to the tenon of concrete sidewall at the two ends. They form several groups of floating space high in the air, connected by an overhanging trestle bridge made of timber and I-beams that flies over the concrete wall.
By connecting the treehouse to an isolated branch-ladder apart from the common staircase, three-dimensional exploration paths within the narrow space become children’s ideal playground for hide-and-seek. This treehouse far away from wildwood has taken its root in the concrete jungle like vines grown on rock.
All furniture and household items are kept simple and moderate where no decoration can be seen in the house. Broad and thick planks in their natural contour are the main material used for flooring. Each single plank is unique in its form and pattern which speaks of life and dignity of each tree.
Walking on timber with barefoot, or making a bed on top of it, is an intimate contact with nature that urges us to touch those timber boards underneath, or the heavy timber beams overhead. Sitting on a cushion against the firewood which leans on the wall is a better than sitting on a sofa fit for ‘Beijing repose’. A fireplace made of a whole C-section iron block provides extra warmth on winter days. While it may not be an entertainer’s paradise, it offers the most appropriate home for a peaceful mind and is spiritually nourishing.