The structural principles of Chinese architecture, with the exception of decorative details, have remained largely unchanged. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of throughout the region with little evolution. Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown, co-founders of Brooklyn-based architecture firm Tsao & McKown, are challenging a particular aspect of traditional Chinese architecture by re-interpreting the courtyard at the Astrid Hill House.
Largely constructed of wood and concrete, the Astrid Hill House divides different areas of the home into branching volumes that are connected by an open-air two-story atrium. The residential areas, office spaces, and entertaining areas are all located in individual branches; these branches can be shut down independently in order to conserve energy use when unoccupied. At the core of the branches is a lush atrium, where a tropical courtyard provides a calm, meditative space for the residents.
The building’s massing and fenestration are organized to minimize solar heat gain. The design also makes use of green roofs and living walls that provide significant evaporative cooling plus a rainwater harvesting system that supplies the water features. Light wells weave from the roof to the basement to bring natural light to the interiors and reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day. On top of it all, a small garden supplies enough vegetables and herbs to feed the residents.
The Astrid Hill House pairs traditional Chinese architectural concepts with new age style to create a comfortable and dynamic home.
Photography courtesy of Tsao & McKown