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Mrs. Fan's Plugin House

People's Architecture Office

Slight renovations largely improving living conditions in Beijing.


Mrs. Fan spent her childhood living in a courtyard house before relocating into an apartment tower with her original family. As she married and searched for her own house, she decided to move back to her childhood home. She had a lot of memories there, and social life there is more genuine than in collective housing. The courtyard needed to be renovated to keep the house from being too claustrophobic, to bring light in, and to make life more affordable. People's Architecture Office renovated the house using the Plugin system.

The Plugin replaces part of the old house and adds new functions such as a kitchen and bathroom. The living room ceiling extends upwards to provide a double height space with skylights on either side. Sunlight comes from above to flood the interior with light. A roof deck provides the homeowners with breathing room from the dense surroundings and a private social space. People's Architecture Office's proprietary prefabricated Plugin Panels makes the house affordable and was developed first for "house in house" renovations. The prefabricated panels are waterproof, incorporate insulation, integrated wiring and plumbing, and come with interior and exterior finishes all molded into one part that can be used outside of an existing structure. The Plugin Panels attach to each other with an integrated lock and construction is so simple that a few unskilled workers can build it.

The Plugin's architectural form is defined by the negotiated demands from surrounding neighbors, rather than limitations imposed from regulations. No sides of the Plugin the structure cannot block sunlight, air circulation, or views of the people next door, and even as the structure was being built, new demands arose. The faceted and chopped exterior of the Plugin Panel accommodates these demands. As an expression of intersecting social forces, the Plugin House proposes a new urban vernacular born from local conditions. For original residents like Mrs. Fan to move back to the historic areas of Beijing is rare, and through improving living standards affordably within given social constraints, the Plugin House attempts to breathe new life into older neighborhoods.

Authors icon Credits

Mentioned project: Mrs. Dong's Plugin
Project location: Changchun Jie, Beijing, China
Principal: He Zhe, James Shen, Zang Feng
Project team: Chen Yihuai, Zhang Zhen
Photography: People's Architecture Office

China 2015
Duration: 2'50''