Client: The Bunnel Family | Location: Shanghai, PRC | Budget: $100,000 (est.) | Completed: 2012

Fuxing Shikumen

Shikumen meaning “stone gate” is a housing vernacular deeply embedded in Shanghai’s unique culture and history. Its defining element is a high wall and decorated archway with inscribed characters of the family that built it. Shikumen evolved as inward looking dwellings whose primary purpose was protection during “troubled times” of war and unrest.

Enns | Gauthier worked with the client to develop a series of exterior spaces designed to merge contemporary garden design within an historic housing type that was steeped in history and meaning. Weaving traditional materials and details into modern forms was a labour of love as much as design. The process involved understanding not only ancient Chinese methods of construction, but also practices from the last great era of openness with the west. At the turn of the 18th century, many intrepid westerners left an imprint on Chinese architecture by introducing Art Deco details such as steel windows, terrazzo floors and concrete finishes. These details were learned by Chinese artisans and are still practiced today.

Renewing these houses meant coming to a deeper understanding of the history both of Chinese and Western architecture. Resolving these details in a modern way allowed us to bring light and drama into these homes in the form of the entry courtyards, light wells and rooftop gardens meant to provide welcome respite from the heat and hustle of urban living in the midst of a city of more than 20 million.

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