Multi-storey apartment buildings are usually not what comes to mind when one thinks of serene retreats in scenic, picturesque environments and yet Chinese practice MAD Architects has created just that in the sloping, verdant shores of Taiping Lake in Huangshan District in eastern China’s Anhui province. Crowning the mountainous landscape almost like natural formations that have been sculpted by wind and water, the interlinked glass and concrete buildings of Huangshan Mountain Village look both contemporary and timeless, masterfully combining modern vertical living with expansive horizons of natural beauty.
Located near the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun, a UNESCO Heritage Site, in the midst of some of the most beautiful mountains in the country, and as part of a larger tourism master plan for Huangshan Taiping Lake, a popular tourist destination, the complex has been designed in deference to local topography through varying both the height of each of the ten buildings and the outline of every floor plate whose organic shapes allude to the neighbouring tea fields. The result is a cluster of tapered, striated volumes that seem to coalesce into a sculptural manifestation of the local topographic contours. Architecture has been transformed into nature.
Connecting all of the buildings, tree-shaded pathways meander along the slope following the landscape’s contours while all the apartments above feature floor-to-ceiling glazing and spacious balconies that allow the interiors to practically merge with the exterior patios and transform the spectacular scenery into an integral part of the décor.
But more than allowing residents to enjoy the natural surroundings, the development encourages them to “see themselves in relation to this environment” as lead architect Ma Yansong explains talking about his “Shanshui City” philosophy. Similarly to the traditional Shanshui landscape paintings which are based on the imagination rather than reality and therefore give a different impression each time you view them, the fluid and open architecture of Huangshan Mountain Village encourages residents to take in the tranquil lake, the mysterious mountains and the all-encompassing sky not as a backdrop but as an embrace. For all the modern amenities and comforts that this residential development provides, it’s the emotional connection with nature that it so generously offers which makes it so desirable.