ANT FARM HOUSE
An ultrathin new house built over an old stone house
The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture
A new layer of living spaces wraps around an existing indigenous stone house to create a new house of outrageous living proportions, with each “room” averaging about 4m2, 80-180cm wide, but with soaring 7m ceiling height. The new house layer holds the entry foyer, study, dog house, library, bathrooms, pantry and service areas that wraps around the stone house in a sequence of small narrow vertical spaces that interlock like the spaces within an ant colony.
The original house was built in the late 1950s with stacked solid granite blocks topped with concrete beams, and is representative of the early houses built in the Yang Ming Shan National Park surrounding protected areas of that period. The design concept sought to preserve the original stone house and to improve its seismic performance by adding two steel box-frames onto the front and back of the stone structure to act as lateral structural reinforcement as well as privacy screen layer to the existing house.
This form strategy creates a “found interior” for the new house from the “internalized exterior” of the old stone house. The original windows, doors and air conditioner openings are transformed into exterior/interior windows and doorways or display nooks depending on their location and orientation. Views of surrounding mountains and the city below are revealed through the overlapping of new and old openings, their organic juxtapositions giving a unique quality to the house. The double-layer structure, the house within the house, with the green lawn on its roof also helps with temperature regulation, keeping the stone house warm in winter and cool in summer.
With living spaces intertwined between the old and new structures, the Ant Farm House has a unique spatial texture that transcends typical villas and mansions. The canyon-like master bath has an extreme spatial dimension of 5.5m x 0.8m x 7m in length, width and height. The master shower is suspended above the guest bathroom, with its glass roof overhead creating the feeling of showering outdoors while being sheltered indoors. The kitchen enjoys a two-story light well over the pantry. From the foyer, a pair of 7m high wooden doors open into a 3m2 study that is only a desk wide; above is the interior window that opens to the family room on the second floor; while under the desk is the dog house. The three-story entrance foyer and stairway opens to a large and spacious terrace. Within the original stone house on the first floor is an open plan living area, while its second floor houses the family room and three bedrooms, each with its own private ultra-narrow outdoor or indoor light well or terrace.
The Ant Farm House is a multitude of intricate living spaces carved out between the old and the new houses with a simple and uncluttered clarity that is kept understated and raw. The new addition of tall, narrow living spaces over the old stone house resulted in an intimate and modest dwelling without any of the expected convention for luxury.