31 January 2011

Suzhou - Zhuo Zheng Yuan (Humble Administrator's Garden) 蘇州 - 拙政園

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One could call  Zhuo Zheng Yuan - Humble Administrator's Garden, "representative" of the Jiang Su style gardens in China.  It is generally referred to as one of the four great Chinese Gardens.

The work on Humble Administrator's Garden started in 1510, by a retired Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty, Wang Xiancheng.  Wang worked together with the renowned artist, Wen Zhengming 文徵明, reflecting upon the hermit lifestyle which Wang longed to lead, much in the same manner as Tao Yuanming 陶淵明.

Humble Administrator's Garden carries a theme of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and has pavilions and scenic spots arranged around the 4 seasons.  Physically the garden is divided into the East, Middle and West Gardens - all together the garden is about 13.4 hectares.  Humble Administrator's Garden was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

Humble Administrator's Garden has such fame (together with the famous novel written in 1759, Dream of the Red Chamber 紅樓夢 by Cao Zueqin 曹雪芹, making reference to the garden as its backdrop), I had high expectations.  The gardens were beautiful, and rich with techniques of garden making, but we did not find much clues regarding architecture and its interrelation with nature; more so because of the garden's vast dimension, "architecture" and "garden" tend to be quite stand-off-ish from each other.

entry gate of Humble Administrator's Garden

this is my favourite place in the garden. The way the corridor touches the water is so delicate and beautiful, not only pleasant to look at, but interesting to walk upon

the corridor then climbs up to reach the pavilion gently, wraps itself around as if supported by the Taihu rocks...

More readings on Humble Administrator's Garden:

TAO - Terebess Asia Online

Wangjianshuo's blog


25 January 2011

After throwing away concrete there is throwing away barrier.....捨てバリ

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Admittedly I have experienced a cultural shock (amongst many others.. during this construction process) when I received these site images few days ago.

We received a call from our concerned client of M House, regarding the bad weather and how the beautiful timber roof structure was getting wet on site.

So this is what happened as the result.....

when we requested for the roof structure to be covered up before the roof goes up, we imagined a tent-like effect, like, one big sheet of plastic over the entire house......BUT... ended up each and every roof rafter was individually wrapped....can you imagine the amount of labour and material went in the "gift wrapping" of roof structure...... unfortunately the site is at a high wind area, therefore the plastic sheeting will be blown off in no time if we are doing a big tent.....

laying the ceiling timber in stripes of 90mm wide boards...like putting up timber flooring on the ceiling......very labour intensive.... in the snow........

the black material is nicknamed "sutebari - 捨てバリ" ("barrier to throw away"), it is waterproof membrane made of modified bitumen/ asphalt (SBS or SBR). By adding polymer or rubber to the straight asphalt, it counters some of the classic problems of the material such as longevity, cold temperature tolerance etc. This layer was to go onto the roof, probably 2 or 3 steps after the timber ceiling (the roof battens, insulation, and then waterproof membrane) but we now have to put this extra layer down to protect the timber ceiling from bad weather.  Because it is only for temporary purpose, it is "the barrier to throw away"

view from inside of the house under the timber ceiling. originally we have selected a timber ceiling board of almost double the width, but when we saw the timber samples, the colouration was much more pink than the rafters.  Considering the colour compatibility and balancing cost, we ended up changing to this 90mm width format....which means double the work........ how we love our builder.......!

20 January 2011

All up!

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Everyone got so excited on site for M House, that they decided to finish the entire roof structure in total of 2 days! (it was scheduled to be finished tomorrow...but it was already done yesterday 10am.....)

These photos are about 1 day old, right now the builders are putting up ceiling lining in timer, which also acts as bracing for lateral stability of the roof rafters.

It is quite an amazing experience for us (can you feel my excitement? I hope you can!) that something we have drawn is getting built RIGHT THIS MOMENT (which is exciting enough as it is, as always...) somewhere across the other side of the world, to the precision that we have requested and specified down to millimetres.  Although it is common that architects design from overseas these days, but the normal practice of making that happen is to engage a local architect to handle the daily occurrences on site, as well as corresponding with builders.  The way we are doing is not so common.....in fact, it is unheard of for me......but then it is the way to ensure delivery of quality we proud ourselves of.

good weather in the morning, everyone on site was excited and speeded through most of the rafters

view from inside the house. It looks just like our perspective (below)!

internal perspective presented to client

junction at rafter and plinth

end piece of the roof rafter. the timber batten on the ridge of roof rafter is the temporary bracing and will be removed once the timber ceiling lining is in place. it is important to ensure safety throughout construction.  weather was starting get bad, luckily it was all done!

can I say I love it? I LOVE it....!

18 January 2011

One in One and One go only!

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The roof rafters are finally going up after the winter break for M House.

We could not be more impressed.....they look exactly like our models except in 1:1 scale, and it is the real stuff!  The accuracy on site is amazing.... Imagine, all the notching and cutting of the timber elements are done by human hand!!

first, the builders had to put up a "土台 (plinth)" along the top of the perimeter concrete walls, for the rafters to rest on. the notches are where the rafters will rest upon, and were notched one by one with human hand....

the perimeter wall is 19.5m at its longer side... it is impossible to do the plinth in a single piece of timer. Where the plinth joint is, this is how the pieces are connected, through tongue and groove connection (cut by hand again...) and bolted to ensure stability.  here it is clear how the notches are slanted at the inside (to either side of the joint) to meet the angle of the roof rafters.

slowly, one by one....the rafters are going up.....

the bolted connection at the ridge...after much testing, we have decided that the diameter of the individual bolt was more important than the bolt being counter-sunken and flush at face (this way the diameter of the bolt is bigger). I think it looks ok, not as distracting as it could have been.  (see the snow in the background?  it was snowing heavily that even the trains stopped running, we were so concerned that there would be further delay on site.....but look at the progress!)

get a taste of how the space would be like after completion... we can hardly wait!

this is how it looks like when the rafters rest on the plinth.. by sitting the rafter into the notched plinth there is extra stability and less visible hardware, makes the ensemble much crispier and cleaner....but of course much more work and labour intensive!  God is in the detail......