Three hours east of Beijing, tourists flock to the coastal city of Qinhuangdao for two reasons. It is home to the eastern end of the Great Wall of China and has a long stretch of sandy beach along the Bohai Sea. It’s somewhat the latter characteristic that inspired Wutopia Lab principal Yu Ting’s design for the visitor center of the resort company Aranya.
For the resulting Striped House, Yu actually looked beyond Asian nautical references to the blue and white–striped sailing shirts that originated as part of the 19th-century uniform for the Marine Nationale, or French Navy. “But when that graphic treatment is used on a three-dimensional volume,” he says, “there’s a hallucinogenic effect.”
Yu demolished an existing building and replaced it with a 400-square-foot one in semitransparent glass. He surrounded it with cement-board panels spaced several feet away from the glass, creating a sort of courtyard between the two structures. He then hand-painted all surfaces in a polyurethane that’s typically used for flooring. The architect retained the sailing-shirt palette, but rotated the orientation of the stripes, from horizontal to vertical. A single circular aperture in the perimeter construction recalls a universal seafaring element: a ship’s porthole.