So what’s it like? These pictures should show it off nicely:
The added stairs also mean that the terrace can get some immediate use for laundry
It’s time to figure out how to build our way up to the private terrace in the North-West room. We’ve decided to do it the simplest way possible. All wood steps fastened on both sides to the two walls. Exciting!
Floating stairs seems scary - but why not?
Look at that! Starting to resemble our 3D mockups now
In order to move the electrical boxes we were required to turn off the power leading into the yard. In order to turn off the power we needed a key to the power box. If you want to get the key, you have to pay the local government roughly 2000RMB for them to open the box, shut the power down and move the electrical boxes. This took 3 people a few hours to do, but while we oversaw the work we got a chance to capture photos of the yard from some unique angles.
Just in time, the metal is all in place ready and waiting for some of the stairs that are being finished up as we eat lunch.
Not terribly exciting, but here are shots of the plumbing being installed directing waste into the well.
Time to build a well. Not quite the fun kind for getting drinking water or simply falling into. But watching our worker disappear into a 2m deep pit is something special. Along the way he discovered plenty of broken porcelain cups as well.
Today our entrance gets a facelift once again. It’s finally rain-proof - mostly. Just in time too!
Once the worker finished sealing it up he’s gone full speed ahead with the rain-guard on all the walls
Just some eye-candy to feast on. The place is slowly beginning to look reasonably attractive....
Day and night -- about 4 days of work to completely cover all messy redness with some nice grey concrete.
Check out the entranceway from the restaurant. There will be glass there soon
Inspecting his evening work
Relaxing on a pile of rubble after finishing up the southern garden wall’s concrete
04/09/10 10:30 Design | Construction
03/09/10 10:36 Design | Construction
Here the worker is putting on the finishing touches of a grey brick wall that only functions to block the ugliness from one neighbour. The new wall is especially nice in the late afternoon sun!
Here’s the wall from down below. Next to it is the back of the kitchen.
03/09/10 10:27 Construction | Design
03/09/10 10:23 Construction
Here comes the second floor, structural beams and all.
On the right side is the dining room, the left is a kitchen - mostly
Up comes the kitchen
Tomorrow the government has promised to take down the tree, so here are a few last moment shots of what the place looks like with a giant 50 year old 25m high tree.
02/09/10 08:25 Construction
The question of how we would heat The Orchid has always been a big one. Cooling is a bit more straightforward since there are only so many options that are in the slightly affordable range. But heating - so many possibilities. The Hutongs of Beijing have always been notorious for making it through the cold winters. In Beijing’s recent history even as close as those growing up here in the 80’s, the hutong winter life was painful. Getting out of bed was difficult enough, but simply thinking about managing the coal for the heating took up so much time, and in the event of a problem it wasn’t unheard of for many people to die of cold through the night. Modern Beijing’s hutong life has changed a lot ---- since last year. The government has been briskly adding in power capacity throughout each neighbourhood, and then subsidizing electric heaters as well as the cost of the electricity from 10pm to 6am. It is still a more expensive proposition for many poor people living here, but the majority is quite happy about it. As far as efficiency is concerned, there are better ways to do things. And certainly the benefit of options comes more easily to those starting from scratch like us.
It was always in our mind to simultaneously increase comfort and raise electrical efficiency by using floor heating. We had hoped originally to somehow use a large array of solar water heaters to convert heat for both regular water consumption as well as floor heating, but this quickly started to look like we’d need an entire additional set of equipment to deal with all those days of inadequate sun. In the end we settled for air-source heat pumps. This is essentially what most people have sitting outside, attached to their indoor AC units, except the outside unit is far bigger. Due to 220V limitations we had to settle for a smaller size unit, and buy two of them to meet capacity. The benefit of these units are the fact that they handle normal AC in the summer and then do all water heating needs in the winter. Also they are the most efficient at providing hot water for floor heating in the winter than all other means available in the area. They also weigh 300kg each!
Receiving the units on the street, and marveling at their size
Our workers wondering if we’ve thought this through properly
Installation company attempting to use the wheelbarrow to move them in
14/08/10 02:45 Construction | Design
Now is when things begin getting extremely interesting. A major second floor being raised overnight adds a lot more dimension to the yard and makes it feel like everything is moving along towards our architectural renderings (stay tuned for those!).
Southern wall of the restaurant dining room is up!
View from the street. A few things missing --
12/08/10 00:53 Construction | Design
Walls are up finally, on what should also become our most well-placed and secluded large room. You can see five huge gaps - those are all massive double-pane glass windows. The first is for the bathroom and the rest for the room itself, with the furthest one acting also as a door for entering the long and spacious garden.
Main entrance to the room facing the central garden facade
10/08/10 00:40 Construction | Design
Here’s a fun one. It took only one day for these walls and the facade of the stairwell to come up. Still a ways away from having stairs though, so views from up top will have to wait.
08/08/10 00:51 Construction | Design
Today the workers have built up the main facade bordering our central garden from the South. The facade also creates a main floor alleyway separating the two south bedrooms.
A worker standing on a make-shift platform for placing the bricks
Two hours later --- Done.
05/08/10 18:06 Construction | Design
A 10th room has been recovered. Loosely defined public space on the second floor has been repurposed into a wonderfully positioned luxury room with a generous amount of space, a superb view and a unique 2nd floor entrance. It would have made a great lounge space, but we feel we might have enough with the restaurant/bar and main floor lobby area. We hope you agree.
Seeing both South-west rooms - a garden room below and the Lookout above it
Another view from the main yard.
Here’s why it’s called the Lookout. That’s the bell tower right there..
Those familiar with our constantly updated building plans might also be aware of the plans for the South room. Looking from the point of view of Sketchup, this south room evenly fits in two identical small bedrooms with adjacent bathrooms. The reality -- and CAD image -- however, shows a completely different story; one that was ignored until today. As of now, the walls and foundation are in place. A lot happens overnight! A cursory glance at it shows that if these are both supposed to be wonderful bedrooms with attached private gardens, then aside from beds, they will not have space for much else! Two solutions can be taken at this point: Either the foundation wall separating the garden area moves in by up to 40cm to make the rooms bigger (and gardens smaller) or the main wall separating both rooms comes down, turning it into one extremely large room with an equally generous garden. We have nearly instantly decided on the second option. Recovering the lost room will be a job for another day. The idea of having two rooms minimized but functional doesn’t bode too well for us.
Youngcall wondering why the rooms suddenly look so small
Walls going up around the foundation on the south room
When everyone’s busy, Mr. Guo’s little boy has to find ways to entertain himself. Having a yard full of bricks and pipes, glass and dirt everywhere sometimes does have its advantages:
Can’t say for certain who the little boy on the right is though. They said he’s a neighbour’s son, but he seems to spend all his time on our worksite.
02/08/10 02:43 Construction
So a decision has been finalized to remove our massive tree, but when this can happen must depend on the landlord’s connection with the city management. It is not so easy to take down a tree, legally.
In the meantime, trenches have now been dug around the area of the tree to lay both the foundation as well as the sewage system. Every few hours someone is asking us when the tree will be gone so they can continue with the foundation work on the other side.
A byproduct of this tree removal will also mean the enlargement of the ground floor indoor space (and thus the second floor terrace space as well). Of course the space must come from somewhere, and it will essentially mean a smaller central garden. No worries though, it is still going to be plenty nice, and green.
Foundation being put in, brick by brick
Our biggest setback yet has just occurred. Against all logic and that which we all consider sane, the landlord’s 27 year old son has unbeknownst to us peeled off a large 30cm tall ring of bark off our wonderfully tall tree. Starting this morning, nearly all the leaves have either dried up or fallen off. The place looks as though autumn has hit early. More likely we should do a heavy metals test in our water system to see if a high amount of mercury was the underlying seed of his amazing stupidity. Apparently he did this a month ago to help us ‘move’ the tree. So smart he is. The tree is only now beginning to show the effects of his actions.
What will we do? In our state of shock we had workers cover it with clay to at least seal it off from parasites. However, the damage is done and the likelihood of the tree recovering is almost certainly nil. If we don’t have any better ideas we will cut down this great 30 meter Chinese aspen and attempt to replace it with a 4-5 meter tall paulownia tree in the next few days. Not quite the same, but the new tree is a fast grower and at least looks a lot better than the aspen.
Better to be a forest than a tree. What loss one dead tree gives can hopefully be countered by the multitude of smaller trees we plan to plant in its place. Beyond the paulownia, we have plans for several smaller trees in the North courtyard and several of the gardens. It will be green no matter what.
Inspecting the damage
Covering it with clay and doing a tree dance.
23/07/10 13:12 Construction | Design
21/07/10 00:29 Construction
In the blink of an eye, the entire mid-section of zijianfang, the junky and poorly constructed buildings not actually registered on the title deed have disappeared. In their place are one giant pile of bricks, old fully greased-up kitchen finishings, worthless nicknacks sitting in center of the yard, and four whole truckloads lying either in the main hutong road or by now trucked far outside the city.
Still one and a half destruction jobs to go. The city is going through some political changes this week as two of the wealthier inner-city districts eat up two of the poorer ones while all the heads of these new mega districts get replaced. As a result, three days of special inspections are taking place, which will prevent people like us from moving rubble outside our property until each evening. It isn’t supposed to make much sense, but maybe it is supposed to slow us down.
Still -- hopefully by Monday we will cross the bridge towards bringing bricks in, rather than out.
Unfortunately we had hoped to have live feed of everything posted on our main page. Couldn’t get that working so we resorted to frequent surveillance cam updates. Still, we put up the wrong camera and the footage was worthless. Perhaps we’ve given up on showing much photo evidence of the destruction process and have set our sites on getting things working for the full construction... we’ll see.
For now maybe we will get some photos thrown up soon from regular camera or two.
16/07/10 01:53 Construction
The first question we get nowadays is ‘how much work will you do on the place??’.
Outlined with fancy Chai labeling below is our current layout showing the buildings that stand right next to the red shaded buildings that will no longer be in 10 days time.
Somehow, in that short time period 30 trucks will be required to come into the city and move out all the garbage and rubble. I suppose the answer to the above question is: A lot of work.
15/07/10 21:38 Ideas | Random
So if you’ve made it this far, you know it’s true. All of this is happening within 10 hours. You also might know that this will soon be a hotel. However, if you look really closely... extremely closely -- you simply notice a big mess!
If you had spent a good part of the year wandering through hundreds of other properties like this, these messy areas with laundry strewn about wouldn’t weaken the imagination one bit. As a result, it’s always the same problem of an incredible let-down during each visit by friends in the last few weeks. Without any of us try to add to the hype, the sheer fact that we have selected this site means that we are more than impressed by it. So when someone makes a visit, they have to try hard to conceal their amazement of our delusional insanity.
It is not insanity though, it is a highly effective algorithm for predicting financial success based on the total area of the property combined with the accurate position of the stars.
for the photos: