Tongli Rice Barn Boutique Hotel
Location: Tongli, Suzhou
Program: boutique hotel
Embracedwithin five different lakes, Tongli is a small town divided by the river netinto several groups of islands. In Tongli, you will find Tuisi Garden, a beautiful place interwoven with pavilions and water. And our project – the renovation of the old rice barns is sitting next to the garden.As located at a river fork, the site was once a hub for the transportation of food and has become a cradle that fostered the local people with a long history. Then the relationship between the traditional and the contemporary becomes an inevitable issue of the project. The architect took the hint from SikongTu’s“the running water reincarnated from the bright moon”, integrated the old walls with scattered mosses, well-retained buildings and waterside life into the modern lifestyle and physical structures, in which the wisdom of the past is merged into the richer experience of today with the attempt to extend the history in architecture.
The project is to transform a group of old rice barns into a boutique hotel. To make the best use of the circumstance, the architects respected the site and tried to retainthe natural beauty of the existing building by restoring the original walls and extending the slope of the roof. The rice barns are surrounded by water, therefore the architect divided different functional areas based on this geographic feature. We also studied the coordination between different areas to find out new experience of living inside.
The existing buildings were quite dilapidated and cannot be simply restored and reused. Therefore, we adapted brand new steel structure system inside the buildings. We also made reparable restoration to the existing walls, added the cantilever structure based on the original slope of roofs to adjust to the rainy weather in South China. The roof is covered with a sort of grey plain tiles which is a typical local building material; part of the ceiling is installed with floating grid of wood grain, and the floor is paved with terrazzo. The buildings, structurally highlighted by those natural materials, are peacefully standing within the waterscape.
The residential area has the most outstanding feature in the cluster. Four rice barns of 50 meters long are juxtaposed with 4 to 6 meters in between. How to improve the current monotonous program into a space of rich layers that will bring in refreshing living experience became the most important task of the design.
After renovation, the four buildings all together host 69 guestrooms and three additional types of rooms in different sizes. Vertically, the7-meter-high rice barn was fully adapted into different layers, which activated the living environment while making the partition of different function areas more flexible. The void spaces between the buildings were rearranged and reused to enclose a series of courtyards of varied sizes. Large openings are left on some of the walls to introduce grand view of the courtyardor carved out on sloping roofs to invite natural lights. The new buildings realized a sense of dwelling, where the original coexistence between the water, the light and the nature is recaptured.