The design of this upmarket apartment development in China resonates with its forest and river valley setting, offering a haven of privacy and retreat

Exterior view of an apartment building which features apartment, architecture, building, commercial building, condominium, corporate headquarters, elevation, facade, headquarters, house, mixed use, real estate, residential area, window, brown
Exterior view of an apartment building which features timber slate panels, flat roof, doors and windows.

In a highly populated country, a medium density housing development where the buildings are well spaced and surrounded by dense vegetation is considered a luxury, as it provides space and privacy in a natural setting.

In a 23,500m² forested river valley in southeastern China, David Chipperfield Architects and Joyon Real Estate Investment have taken their design cue from the lay of the land to build a series of twelve apartment buildings, known as Ninetree Village. Project architect Hans Krause says the plan was adapted to the topography.

"Bordering a bamboo forest and nearby river, the structures are placed in a chequered format, seemingly meandering through the landscape," he says.

There are six types of building, each five storeys tall. The individual structures differ in scale and floor plan, according to the view and light conditions. On each floor is a spacious 400m² apartment with its own air conditioning system and central heat exchanger. A gas-fired boiler heats the floors. The buildings have double-glazed aluminium windows and are insulated to above-average standards.

The interiors are large, open and light. A pale colour palette, integrated cabinetry and plenty of recessed lighting completes the clean, sleek look.

View of apartment bathroom with marble wall and architecture, bathroom, ceiling, daylighting, floor, flooring, hardwood, house, interior design, laminate flooring, room, tile, wall, wood, wood flooring, gray
View of apartment bathroom with marble wall and floor tiling, vanity with marble top, sink and taps, mirror, lighting.

Traditional references are evident in the exterior materials and design. These include the wooded slats that encase the buildings and the transitional walkways between the timber screens and the apartments loggia zones that provide sun protection and privacy in the hot and humid conditions.

Vegetation was replanted after construction to ensure a degree of privacy for occupants and to retain a strong connection to nature.

The apartments are accessed from the southern entrance via a network of connected lanes. An underground carpark maintains the site's natural appeal.

Krause says the greatest construction challenge of the project was building the clubhouse.

"Located at the northern and narrowest tip of the site, the exterior wall had to form part of the outer boundary, which is steep and uneven. The irregular-shaped building was also clad in concrete and Chinese volcanic stone, increasing the level of attention to detail," he says.

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Image of floor plans of one of the apartments.

Due to the shape of the structure, deep volume skylights were added to the interior. These, along with the stone finish, create a cavernous appearance.

Krause says the space planning and materials utilised for Ninetree Village reflect historic Chinese approaches to architecture and garden design.

"But the plan cannot be easily adapted to other situations in China, in particular for more dense urban developments," he says.

"However, we hope that in the future, local architecture and urban design trends again start to incorporate elements of traditional spatial qualities."

Credit list

David Chipperfield Architects
Mark Randal
Structural and services engineer
ZSADI, Zheijang South Architectural Design and Survey Ltd
David Chipperfield
Project architect
Hans Krause

Story by: Frederique Gulcher

Photography by: Shu He and Christian Richters

08 Jul, 2009

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