beijing-based practice BaO architects has recently completed the ‘split bathhouse’ located in shanmen, china. this collaborative community driven project in rural china will provide the local 5,000 inhabitants with access to clean water and facilities for bathing. the form is generated by dividing one volume into two separate spaces pulled apart to create a central partially protected greenhouse, addressing the secondary need for a social gathering space. designed as autonomous entities, the  heating, filtering and collection of water occurs on site with solar powered processes. wastewater is treated within bamboo planters on the site with the help of bacterial fauna before it is used as greywater or returned to the earth.

BaO architectsall images © BaO architects



the building with the green interior is to be used by men while the yellow interior is for women. the mediated greenhouse sustains from passive solar energy and may be opened at the end points to allow open air circulation through the space. changing facilities, lockers, bathrooms, washbasins and showers are located in each wing while strategically placed vertical windows ventilate and allow steam to escape.

BaO architects gathering within central area



mounted upon a concrete platform, the structure’s base provides perimeter seating and an outdoor water source which may also be used for laundry. timber roofs pitch away from the central space and deep overhangs extend to shelter children playing underneath. facades clad with blackboards encourage children to express themselves and temporarily leave their mark upon the complex.

BaO architects veranda

BaO architects: split bathhouse facade clad with blackboard

BaO architects: split bathhouse children drawing on chalkboard

BaO architects: split bathhouse entrance to greenhouse

BaO architects: split bathhouse partially covered greenhouse with trees penetrating roof structure

BaO architects women’s changing area

BaO architects men’s shower area

BaO architects greenhouse illuminated at night

BaO architects floor plan / level 0

BaO architects section

BaO architects elevation

BaO architects elevations

BaO architects water filtration diagram


BaO architects: split bathhouse conceptual programmatic diagram

BaO architects: split bathhouse sustainability diagram



project info:


credits: benjamin beller _ BaO architects year: 2011 place: shanmen, gansu, china collaborators: the children of madaifu, gabriella batistella (aquatiris), du tiecheng: pan xin, li yixi, cheng li, thierry devilliers (ccfcme), yvonne li (avantage ventures) financial contributors: mr. philip kan (hong kong), the children of madaifu, veolia foundation, AFD french agency for development budget: 50k€ (200€/m2) photo credit: BaO architects awards: honorable mention in urbaninform competition ‘small scale, big change. new architectures of social engagement’