The house has been built in an old Japanese cherry orchard in Sanjhih in the Datun mountains of Taipei County, Taiwan. It resembles a boat that reacts to the winds and unpredictable local climatic conditions. The design is by Marco Casagrande and Frank Chen, with their C-Laboratory teams from Finland and Taiwan: a veritable creative circus that operates world wide.
The Chen house is located in the mountainous region of north Taiwan. Until the end of the Second World War the area was part of the vast Japanese Empire and known mainly for its production of tea which was very popular in Japan. The old cherry orchard where this house stands dates from that period. This is a region of unpredictable climatic conditions - of frequent earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. The latter were the reason why the house is raised above the ground. The various rooms connect up flexibly with a view to countering the effects of earthquakes, with the small bathroom and the kitchen serving as stabilisers.
The arrangement of the house is in fact simple: it follows a narrow footprint of successive living areas. Only the kitchen and the bathroom protrude out of the rectangle, with a small sauna in between. The entire house seems to rest on a wooden platform supported by concrete posts. From the platform, a straight flight of external stairs leads to the first floor, which is open to the elements and sparsely furnished with a garden table and seating. The ground floor interior is equally sparse. Low sofas and beds are arranged around a large brick fireplace. In the hot summer months the windows on either side can be opened to catch the cool breeze from the Datun river. The initial design was intended to provide shelter for farmers working the land here.
The house was designed by the C-Laboratory architects headed by Marco Casagrande and Frank Chen who hail from Finland and Taiwan, respectively.
The Laboratory comprises a group of creative experts from different disciplines, varying from architecture, interior design and urban planning, to ecologically friendly artistic creations and scientific projects. A kind of creative circus, as Marco Casagrande describes the co-operative. The Chen house is known in the farming community as 'Missis Lee' house. That is the name of an old woman who has lived 'for ever' on the property, farming her own plot. She knows all there is to know about local building methods and the treacherous weather.
Marco Casagrande: “One night a strange wind blew the scaffolding down. I asked Missis Lee what had happened and she told me because there were no plants for ground cover and the soil was terracotta-coloured, it heated up too much during the day. The night had sent a cold wind to cool the hot earth. Here you must always plant the garden before starting to build. It's well-known local folklore resting on ancient tradition.”