Look one way and you’ll see a scenic forest-covered valley, sitting at the foot of the Changbai Mountains – look the other and you’ll see the scar left behind from failed urban development. This project by Origin Architect aimed to achieve a harmonious balance between nature and human activity, and to help repair the damage done by the latter.
Located in Erdaobai River Town, the unusually shaped seven Forest Valley villas are designed to maximise the views out towards the river and connect each building directly to its surroundings.
However, rather than creating a further intervention on the landscape, Origin Architect aimed to heal the damage already done by poor urban expansion and to give the constructed land back to the forest.
A clear line divided the site into two halves, both literally and figuratively. The untouched forest valley with breathtaking views sits on one half of the borderline, while a ghost town of an abandoned amusement park and piles of abandoned construction waste can be seen on the other, representing this confrontation between nature and cities.
The design team was meticulous in its efforts to restore the valley to its former glory, surveying the forest eco system and mapping out every ancient tree. It restored the land where the amusement park had been by removing the piles of construction waste and reinstating the former waterways, plus the team dredged the choked rivers to encourage vegetation to grow once more.
The new buildings are also designed to have as little impact on the landscape as possible, softly floating above the ground or riverbeds. Each villa is unique and its shape is entirely determined by the trees that surround it, carefully slotting itself between the greenery and reaching out towards the sun and the landscape.
Wherever you are in the home, you’re greeted by the presence of nature: the bedrooms overlook the creeks, the living room faces the imposing mountains and the dining room sits among the forest. At the end of each ‘arm’ of the building is floor-to-ceiling glazing, providing a tranquil spot to enjoy the view and connect with the environment. The interior design is deliberately minimal, so as not to distract from the scenic views beyond, putting nature centre stage.
‘Unobstructed interior design forms a channel that turns everyday life into shuttling between landscapes in different directions. When you look around, you can see the forest, river, mountain and sunshine interweaving in front of you. Landscapes change and seasons pass before you realise it,’ explains Origin Architect.
Eventually, the aim is that the previous distinction between the forest and the city will be blurred, bringing the two together in harmony. Already lush plants are beginning to grow back and wild animals have come to make the land their home, including Chinese mergansers, a rare species of bird.