The Courtyard House Plug-in is a modular home that was created by People’s Architecture Office to respond to the need of Beijing’s historic neighborhoods for modern facilities.
Hutongs are neighborhoods made up of narrow alleys and courtyard residences. They are commonly associated with Chinese cities but mostly the association is with Beijing, where they form the heart of Old Beijing and represent a big historic and cultural element of the city. There are only around 1000 Hutongs left, all in need of some serious rebuilding and repairs, but as they are being listed on the heritage protection list, their renovation is becoming a bit more complicated.
Beijing based studio People’s Architecture Office developed a panelling system that allows people to temporary build a living space within the old Courtyard House structure and keep it intact. So while the structure may look as an old house from the outside, the interiors of the house tell a new, more modern story.
“The plug-in modules are built using energy-efficient technologies and infrastructural elements such as plumbing, floor heating, insulation, and wiring are integrated into the Plugin Units,” says co-founder of PAO, James Shen. The house within the house therefore accommodates all the needs a modern citizen can have and were not always provided in old Hutongs.Each plug-in has all the parts put in one piece, the interior and the exterior of the plug-in function as one, there are no screws or nails.
This sort of living solution comes in handy when renovating old protected buildings and presents an alternative to tearing them down. “Houses tend to degrade when they’re vacant and unkempt,” says Shen, so plug-ins may help keep places like Hutongs alive despite their beat up look.