House of Duality | Jiaxing Guest House

House of Duality | Jiaxing Guest House

The academic conception of this project happened many months before we were given this brief for a small house for two guests. We were having this conversation in the office about the innate paradox of using ideas about history and memory as design tools. There is often this perception that such processes are nostalgic, perhaps regressive, a stylized caricature of an idea not fit for the present. We firmly believe however that there is a quality beyond image worth retaining in many of the architectures of the past. Sometimes there is this poetic balance found in the most un-expecting places; buildings that were perhaps once built simply and efficiently for pure function but that now have garnered a patina of use and memory worth saving. The difficulty for us as designers is distilling, articulating and using this intangible quality without the baggage of what it was once attached to. We must go deeper to understand it.

For the research project ‘Arcasia’ we aimed to confront this problem head-on, working like chemists to condense, filter and document what we felt was the essence of what attracted us to such places. We are as a practice deeply influenced by the city where we practice and have always had this interest with the narratives and quality of spaces found within the lilong of Shanghai. For this project we used a series of analytical devices to develop spatial drawings that characterize the ‘genius loci’ of the lilong; its’ scale, light, texture, sound, smell etc.
We made the drawings based on particular quotes and references, these were not always words describing the architecture and often were about the relationships of the people that lived there; thus the sections we drew became surrealist, psycho-analytical spaces. This was interesting, for architecture as we know has this complex back and forth relationship with the people that inhabit it.

The quote that influenced the idea for the house described two ladies that met once a week, one would always speak openly about her life, the people in it the problems she faced whilst the other sat and listened, absorbing the life of the other whilst keeping her own locked away. We titled the drawing ‘House for an Introvert, House for an extrovert’, when we received the brief for this project we imagined what such a house could be; catering for their private spaces as well as shaping their life together.


Completion Date

November 2015

Jiaxing, China