This Villa is part of a 100 Villa development in the new town of Ordos in Inner Mongolia, China. Pritzker Prize winning architects Herzog & de Meuron selected 100 architects from around the world to each design one 10,000sf villa.

The master plan, by Ai Weiwei / FAKE, encircled each house with a public footpath juxtaposing two conflicting desires: private retreat and public display. We accepted this tension as a primary design challenge.

To engage the public, the building form manipulates the perception of the scale, geometry and massing from different exterior points of view to create an engaging ambiguity. This ambiguity is in contrast to the cubic massing suggested by the master plan.

The private interior courtyard at the center of the house provides a sanctuary and retreat shielded from public view while allowing edited outward views. The building mass is carved to provide edited views from the interior courtyard and allow sunlight into the center of the building. From the central courtyard the planted roof yields a green pastoral scene with an almost scale-less quality (editing out neighboring houses with a false horizon).  The courtyard creates a sheltered, central node for the house and allows for visual interconnections between the living spaces.

Reinforcing the site strategies on a programmatic level, the building is organized vertically in layers of increasing privacy.  Individual private spaces are articulated as distinct objects at the top level (sleeping), communal family spaces are arranged around the courtyard in the middle (living) and social / public spaces open to the exterior are an extension of the landscape level (entertaining).

In much the same way that the overall massing works with point of view and perception, the skin of the building changes throughout the day depending on the location of the sun and the viewer.   At different moments, the brick skin wraps smoothly, pulls apart to create light portals or rotates on its own axis—creating a continuous patterned skin of changing opacity and texture. 

The shifting geometries of the bricks are generated by the orientation of the intersecting walls.  These trajectories ripple out from the corners, normalizing themselves to the surface of the plane as they move away from the generating corner. The corner bricks create interlocking “zipper” connections - clearly expressing the generative geometries.

Because the site has extremes in temperature between summer and winter, the house incorporates many passive heating and cooling strategies to help reduce the environmental impact of the project.