this remodeled home in beijing celebrates ancient courtyard lifestyle

this remodeled home in beijing celebrates ancient courtyard lifestyle


days in YARD studio’s remodeled courtyard home project responds to living spaces today


lying between two ancient temple clusters in the heart of beijing, this residential courtyard was remodeled alongside a family home to harmonize traditional chinese architecture with modern building technology. led by days in YARD studio, the project responds explicitly to how this fast-paced era has pushed locals to abandon the hutong-courtyard lifestyle and live in box-like apartments instead.


that said, the studio’s lead architect, haipeng ren, launched the remodeling process by asking himself: ‘how can we bring back that once-cherished living space and make it livable according to today’s standards?

shiyuan days in yard 3
all images © zoulei, yiqing, and haipeng from days in YARD



assessing the site’s existing obstacles and layout


while surveying the site, days in YARD studio’s haipeng ren (see more here) noticed several obstacles standing in his way. to start, the existing structure violated north china’s post and lintel construction code; both columns on the northern and western walls were physically missing, making the space almost unlivable. additionally, to the south, a neighboring house has four windows directly opening into the courtyard, breaching the owners’ privacy. according to ren, however, ‘it would be quite a wasteful use of space to block those windows, as with an iron plate, for privacy or partition. it could undermine the creation of a peaceful and inclusive neighborhood.’ 


when it comes to introducing more natural lighting, the architect had to consider minimizing radical interventions like tearing down a wall or punching a hole. he also had to work around the two high-rises facing the courtyard to the west. last but not least, ren pointed out the limiting L-shaped courtyard design and the narrow room layouts to the north and west. looking at these challenges, he had approach the design intelligently ‘to make everything come together as a coherent and cohesive whole: fully utilizing space and analyzing site resources to create and shape a humane and spirited new place.’

shiyuan days in yard 1



adopting the ‘first expand, then contract’ approach 


what was peculiar about this project was that its owners did not specify or clarify the scope and purpose. to a certain extent, it was up to the architect to develop his value propositions for the remodeling. the owners did, however, express their wishes for holding various activities within their home and making fuller use of the courtyard as a ‘meeting place.’

to that end, days in YARD adopted the ‘first expand – then contract’ design approach. that is, the first step was to make the space as open and comfortable as possible while minimizing environmental impact. it was also crucial to endow the home with a natural flow to maximize the domestic experience. therefore, the architect opened up the lower level and merged it with the yard — creating an interface that connects the indoors and outdoors. meanwhile, the upper areas feature a half-private space with a multi-purpose design approach.

shiyuan days in yard 4



to emphasize that spatial flow, ren did not install any doors, except in the bathrooms. he says: ‘based on specific constraints, we performed a structural deconstruction to create a nuanced yet smooth spatial flow by alternating patterns and links at structural joints.’


the resulting layout comprises two yards (one being sunken), a space encircled by three trees, ten arched tunnel portals made of bricks, two bathrooms, two kitchens, four stairs, three lofts, one patio, an anteroom merging into the living room, a tea room, painting studio (for painting), indoor and outdoor storage rooms, a flexible, reconfigurable stage and a recording room. 

shiyuan days in yard 7



meeting the passive house standards for spatial longevity


concerning the technical standards set for this project, the architect has adopted and successfully met the building standard on low-energy use, the passive house technology pioneered by the german passive house institute (PHI). ren also considered the active house standards (set by the active house alliance). by doing so, he’s revitalized and extended the small and charming yard’s lifespan.



shiyuan days in yard 8

shiyuan days in yard 11






project info:


name: shiyuan, days in YARD

location: dongcheng district, beijing, china

construction time: july 2019 – july 2021 
space design and operation: days in YARD studio

lead architect and designer: haipeng ren

traditional chinese architecture design and build: haipeng ren, zhijun liu

furniture and interior: haipeng ren, xue zhao, yong liu and yimu

landscape architecture: haipeng ren, haiyue garden, chengxuan guo
lighting consultant: CJ-lighting group, deltalight

glass curtain manufacturer: schueco
recording equipment: zhizi studio design 

plot area: 168 sqm
interior area (incl. mezzanines): 150 sqm
overall courtyard and built area (incl. mezzanines): 200 sqm

passive house ventilation: aernova

passive house consultant: HXP PLANUNG GmbH
passive house certification: EnerPHit standard

floor area ratio: 0.9

green ratio: 30% clear

height to the eave: 3.17 meters 

photography: zoulei, yiqing, haipeng



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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