minggu design revives the historic 'lai yard' house in nanjing, china

minggu design revives the historic 'lai yard' house in nanjing, china


located in the south of nanjing, china, this hidden residential gem is brought back to life by architectural practice minggu design. for hundreds of years, the ‘lai yard’ has stood in the alley and near the ancient city wall — listed as a protected building that needs restoration. at the north of the original house, two-pseudo architectures have been built to create three enclosed courtyards interwoven with an intimate group of trees. objectively speaking, the studio has witnessed unsophisticated and archaic site conditions that do not reflect the ancients’ works. regardless, the residence still reflects the memory and desire for traditions by today’s community.

traditional chinese landscape in the yard



in the end, minggu design wishes to convey the language of contemporary architecture through this traditional courtyard. the original design intention has been to superimpose programs with no clear criteria: the space could be for mediation, for work or even serve as a schoolroom. until the architecture is completely finished, the functions will be properly implanted — making it the biggest challenge for the architect who wishes to offer this raw space the most suitable character.

a small wooden table serves as a tea set support, overlooking the outdoor space



the layout of this project is quite decent, but also full of surprising details. contrasting features, such as old and new, interior and exterior, light and dark, conventional and contemporary, merge into a harmonious existence. through this design, light and space have been greatly emphasized by the architect. indeed by blocking all incoming light in the original building, this only allows daylight to filter through the southeast side. this vague illumination become tangible and visible through both internal and external roof structures. as time goes by, light and the shadow also change angles between morning and evening, resulting in a vivid indoor atmosphere.

practice space revealing contrasts of light, shadows and colors



the original column system and transparent material together form an enclosed space, with a façade facing the courtyard and merging into the chinese garden scenery. on the other hand, the meditation area hangs over the base surface of the old house, interacting with the courtyard. concerning the interiors, deep and bright colors are reflected in the architecture and character of the living spaces. two narrow rooms located on both sides of the enclosed space are indented to ensure a sharp contrast to the master room in the middle.

meditation gallery with a full glazed façade



an old well in the courtyard is appreciated as the source of ‘earth water’, which is mixed in a canal connected to drains that collect the ‘heaven water from the eaves. the mixed water flows along the open space, revealing the general architecture and meditation area. the bright façade and clear water act as a mirror, sending daylight to the ceiling to form a gentle reflection. all, in all this project illustrates the architect’s philosophy and understanding of dualistic opposition theory, as well as the attempt to observe the truth and reality through such a method.

the meditation zone sits at the base of the house

bar zone revealing the deep earthy colors of the architecture

living and creation room

corner of creation room

working area

tea set closeup

the design creates overlapping spaces and programs



project info:


name: lai yard
architect: minggu design
author: jaco.pan
address: heritage avenue, laomen east, nanjing, jiangsu province, china
area: 1, 000 sq. m
completed date: july of 2015
primary materials: steel plates, brick, plaster, wood plates



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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