featured as part of the ‘wow home‘ tv series, the cave house in loess by chinese studio hypersity architects renovates a derelict traditional cave dwelling in the shanxi region of china into an updated home of rammed earth for a local internet star. the site consists of a large barrel vaulted recess in the the earth with a large front courtyard that contained a cluster of three smaller dwelling along the southwest side. the architects began by demolishing this auxiliary volume to open the courtyard entirely and begin from the basic core elements of the site: a large cavernous space and an open forecourt. 

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a rammed earth structure alludes to the earthen architecture that formed the traditional cave dwellings

 

 

in order to re-establish the boundaries of the site the architects began by rebuilding the perimeter wall that provides both structural support and privacy. rammed earth was chosen to merge an architectural aesthetic with historical significance, alluding to the earth that has always existed as a building material manifested within a contemporary context. the large courtyard underwent the most significant transformation, now containing a bedroom, dining area, bathroom, storage rooms, and a kitchen housed in five offset volumes that form between them five open-air courtyards ensuring natural southern light makes its way to every space. 

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the updated site sits next to the original state of the cave dwellings

 

 

taking the form of the barrel vault, curved walls and ceilings on all axes transition from room to room, form openings in the roof plane and act as shade structures. the original cave was renovated and converted into the primary living room and the grandmother’s room, in succession. between the interior and exterior, a timber screen wall allows light inside while obscuring views from the larger of the outdoor courtyards directly in front of the cave opening. due to the depth of the cave, a circular skylight was inserted in the center bisecting the separating wall between the bedroom and living area, forming a large light tunnel naturally illuminating the interior.

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the perimeter wall provides privacy within the property

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new vaulted forms provide for contemporary architectural features

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grey tiles define courtyard spaces while white gravel defines planting areas
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wood interiors and the original furniture play off the rammed earth walls to form a natural and familiar interior

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smaller exterior courtyards connect the southern-facing volumes
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the larger courtyard precedes the entrance to the original cave dwelling
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the wooden screen wall filters direct sunlight
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a new living room enjoys the largest volume of space and natural light
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the central skylight creates a light tunnel separating the bedroom and living space
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