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In what surely could have been a contender for inclusion in Tiny Houses (this week's book review), the Chen House by C-Laboratory -- Finland's Marco Casagrande and Taiwan's Frank Chen -- is a small house in a remote setting in the north of Taiwan. Built for a retired couple, the house is notable for its attention to site and its materiality, though both work as a synthesis of traditional methods adapted to contemporary conditions.

Sitting in an opening next to the couple's farm and the Da-Tun River, the house is surrounded by hills and trees. The climate is marked by summer heat, occasional flooding, frequent strong winds and even seismic activity. Casagrande describes the house as an adaptive, responsive entity that allows wind to move through the house, raises itself up on concrete piles to allow for rising waters, and uses the two volumes (living in the larger, bathroom, kitchen and sauna in the smaller) to brace each other against lateral forces, be they from wind or earthquakes.

The architects eschewed the prevalence of brick in the region, opting for wood for just about every surface in the project, minus the hearth. A species normally used for formwork was selected. Its reddish appearance -- already graying from the elements -- works well with the surrounding soils, and as a counterpoint to the lush vegetation. The interior is the other side of the exterior's coin, a space lined with wood and dappled with sunlight.

The house is oriented north-south, with a terrace on the north and access to the roof on the south. The east and west facades have selective openings, respectively tall and linear. Both are operable, allowing for breezes, but the latter notably hugs the floor, as if those seated are the only ones privy to westerly views. Overall it is a simple design executed with care towards its functioning in a difficult site, a commendable house executed in meranti.

 

Chen House in Sanjhih, Taiwan by C-Laboratory

2009.04.27

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