Penghu House reinterprets traditional wisdom within a modern framework

On the Penghu archipelago west of Taiwan, indigenous laogushi or coral stone houses are a unique cultural heritage. With roots in the southern Chinese coastal regions of Qing dynasty, coral stone houses were built of actual corals blocks stacked upon a base wall of basalt quarried on the islands. They are characterized by a nine-square plan, distinctive rolled roof ridges resembling a curved gable, and slits and pillars as window openings due to strong winds. For a multi-generation Penghu family, XRANGE Architects were inspired to reinterpret these historical coral house clusters seen on windswept plains of wild chrysanthemum.

From a distance, above the tree lines, the silhouette of Penghu House gives the impression of an indigenous village cluster with overlapping layers of rolled roof ridges. Three parallel concrete volumes with their own distinctive rolled roof ridges are stacked to create this village effect. These concrete blocks form the part of the house as well as the structural system of load-bearing walls. Clad in white stone, the striking roof lines stand out against the azure island sky and the surrounding green farmland. The traditional slits-and-pillars openings are reinterpreted as balcony and patio screens, behind which are floor-to-ceiling glass doors for greatly improved access to natural light and ventilation.

The central block houses the 5 m tall living space that opens onto a garden. Next to it, the eastern concrete block houses a courtyard that connects the parents’ bedrooms and the ancestral temples upstairs. To the west of the main volume is the dining hall and on the top floor, the master bedroom opens onto the roofscape of rolled ridges with sweeping views of the sea. On this level, the 3 roof silhouettes interconnect, the roof deck, pitch, and ridges flow to create a rolling, continuous spatial experience.

As part of the climate strategies, there are minimal window openings to the northeast due to severe winter winds, while deep overhangs and slit-and-pillar patio screens are placed on the south and west faces to reduce direct solar exposure. The roofscape and exterior walls are 30 cm thick and fully clad in a rain screen granite panel system, giving the house extra insulation to withstand the summer heat and gale-force winds in the winter. Within the compound are a natural wellspring and a small organic farming patch for the family.

Effective natural cross ventilation is built-in throughout the entire house, even within the mechanical and duct conduits. This allows the house to enjoy natural breezes without the use of air conditioners even with 35˚C outside temperature. The bedroom walls are rendered in natural clay to regulate humidity and prevent mold or fungal growth which is common for the climate. Throughout the entire interior, the rolling roofscape is lined with fragrant pine, giving the house a warm visual and olfactory signature. Wood cut-offs are also recycled into original furniture and screen for the house.

The Penghu House reinterprets traditional wisdom within a modern framework to create a multi-generational home for a local clan, resulting in a distinctive architecture born from the unique conditions of Penghu.

Design and info © XRANGE Architects

Images © Kuo-Min Lee

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