Wu-Ling House

Concept, Design, and Construction
Taoyuan, Taiwan
Design / June 2004 – December 2004
Building / January 2005 – November 2006
Site Area / 1077.69㎡
Subtotal Area / 885.95㎡

The chinaberry trees on site hold many memories that are dear to the owner of the house. For two decades, they grew from tree lets into a small forest surrounding four old buildings that has become too small to accommodate the growing family. Previous plans of renovation call for the removal of these trees to allow a bigger plot of land and to reduce engineering challenges for rebuilding. The owner, however, wishes to preserve all trees that are so dear to his family. Banmu Architects help the owner to create a new Wu-Ling House that is the culmination of his love towards the trees, his insights into the nature and his prospects of lives.

The core elements of the design are those five chinaberry trees. To ensure spaces for chinaberry trees, we carefully measured the size of each and every branch and trunk of the trees. The arrangement of all architectural elements –– building footprints, floor elevations, and wall openings –– are according to the configuration of the trees. Living spaces are planned so that residents have constant interactions with the trees. The house is designed to have three floors so that the height of the building is harmonious with the trees. The entrance is a junction that connects an art gallery to the southeast and the living quarters to the northwest. The rooftop lookout is another junction that can be reached through separate routes from the art gallery or the living quarters. The alternative routes are designed not only to facilitate guest and private uses, but also to signify the owner’s affection of mountains as alternative routes to reach the mountaintop. Four staircases of different approaches were created. The staircases were, in essence, secret hiking trails meandering in and out of the building. Along the trails, the owner may stroll by the chinaberry trees or enjoy the interplay of lights and shadows through windows. With interlaces of architectural elements and chinaberry trees, the spatial experience in Wu-Ling House is rich and intricate.

At the entrance of the house, guests are greeted by a standing mountain rock and a fair-faced concrete wall. Beyond the entrance, a small footbridge leads guests through a lotus pond. Next to the pond, there is a green house for orchids; this is an outdoor lobby where the owner welcomes guests to enjoy the flowers, sip tea and share their mutual delights. Inside the house, the first floor living quarters has large French windows to bring in warm daylight. Walls, floors and furniture are simple and plain reflecting the owner’s principle of sensible living. In contrast, the art gallery is quiet and modest in terms of lighting. Windows are tall and narrow to provide a stable lighting condition for art making and exhibition, while framing outdoor scenery into ribbons of natural paintings that contrast and accompany the art work inside. The second floor is for family members only; all private bedrooms are situated here.

A rooftop lookout, on the third floor, is the place for close encounters with chinaberry trees. The path along staircases is carefully crafted to showcase various postures of the chinaberry trees. On the first floor, their trunks are upright and b; on the second floor, the branches are curvy and swiveling; on the third floor, the leaves are dense and interlaced. On the northern wall, openings are deliberately positioned for tree leaves to permeate into the lookout. This is the guest hall that showcases seasonable living –– enjoying chinaberry blossoms in the spring; hiding from heat under tree canopy in the summer; marveling fall foliage in the autumn; counting chinaberry fruits and planning for family gathering in the winter.

At Wu-Ling House, the chinaberry trees are the masters of the architecture, as well as the bearers of the owner’s memories. Seasons may change, years may pass, all owners of Wu-Ling House will continue their story with these five chinaberry trees.