Living in a Courtyard House

Above, entrance to the Fullfun Hostel (北京福丰国际青年旅舍) in Yanyue Hutong in the Dongcheng District of Beijing.

One of the best ways to research residential architecture, is to actually live in it. I spent three days staying in a hostel in Beijing's Dongcheng district. The hostel is tucked away into the side of a long and narrow east-west lane that constitutes the Yanyue Hutong. The building is renovated from an old Siheyuan style courtyard house, a traditional housing form that once dominated Beijing's cityscape, but is now rapidly dwindling in numbers.

Staying in the courtyard house was a pleasant experience. The central courtyard made it very easy to access any other function - as the hostel also included a kitchen, bathroom, shower area, and sleeping areas divided into multiple rooms surrounding the courtyard. The courtyard also gave focus to an added component - a modern looking wood and glass volume that contains the hostel's reception as well as a collective interior gathering space for the young backpackers that frequently pass through.

Because of the openess of this central courtyard space, I was able to meet and interact with several students whom had just graduated college and were travelling throughout China. The excellent locations of Hutong within the city center in general as well as their accessbility to public spaces made it easy to bring the socializing beyond the hostel's doors. Stepping outside the large double swinging doors characteristic of all Siheyuan houses, one is able to encounter a variety of services that are public in nature yet intimiate in setting. There are food stalls, small convenience shops, restaurants tucked neatly into the building fabric, and many many open doors that offer a peak of the more private life occurring inside.


Above, the central courtyard space with an added glass volume to the right.


Above, an entrance into the sleeping rooms.


Above, a view of the courtyard house.


Above, a view to the exterior Hutong lane.


Above, the street scene outside.