Transforming centuries-old village houses into a luxury hotel

Deep in the Dazhong mountains, in the ancient Chinese village of Chenjiapu, in Songyang county, nestles the Stray Bird Art Hotel, a stunning restoration project that combines centuries old materials and workmanship with contemporary prefabricated design.

The village is home to about 100 residential buildings, mostly traditional rammed earth-wood structures, surrounded by mountains on three sides and a 200-metre cliff drop to the valley below. Hangzhou-based Line+ Studio successfully took on the incredible challenge of converting two such houses into a luxurious contemporary hotel.

Not only was there the challenge of remoteness and access via narrow pathways, making it impossible to bring in construction machinery, the studio also had to contend with strict regulations governing historical villages. So it adopted two strategies.

First to study and fully understand the local construction system, as well as the climate, terrain, lifestyle and cultural characteristics. This involved the team visiting local craftsmen and learning about traditional work methods and materials. The second strategy was to bring in a pre-fabricated light-steel structure to overcome the harsh on-site conditions.

Armed with newfound knowledge, the Line+ team went about deciding what could be safely kept from the old houses, and what potential hazards needed to be removed. Some elements were reinforced and retained, complemented by recycled materials such as local wood, tiles, bricks and stone. It was a slow and painstaking process but the combination of traditional craftsmanship and industrial pre-fabrication worked brilliantly.

Externally, the hotel blends seamlessly with the village landscape. Internally, the elegant hotel rooms feature natural stone and timber finishings and breath-taking views of the valley. In the end, as the studio notes, it was a triumph of opposites, between “new and old, heavy and light, real and virtual”.