Projet Description

HGW (House on the Great Wall), a private villa born from a underground storage turned into a 4 bedroom house
The property is located in a mountain area near the Great Wall, north of Beijing.
Originally built in the middle of last century as underground storage for fruit trees for the village, the existing structure is built entirely of natural stone and consists of a rectangular volume of 21x11x4 meters.
The client owns a house on the south side of the property, in an elevated position overlooking the roof of the underground storage. The scope of the design was to extend the existing house by turning the storage into a 4 bedrooms residence.
The existing storage is constructed north facing, partially underground in a basin lower than the surrounding. To create a liveable environment for the new residence, a design solution for these particular conditions was required.
The design strategy focused on three main directions: enhance the identity of the storage and its stone walls, allow as much light as possible to the interior space and preserving the panoramic view from the existing house owned by the client.
The existing natural stone walls are preserved to a large extent and are fully exposed as a strong presence in the house in contrast with the new polished concrete structure and white plastered interior walls. Only in the north side the natural stone wall is replaced by a large glass façade and the soil removed to create a generous terrace in front, which occupies the entire length of the living and dining area in the inside. Also, in the north side, the garage is inset into the building as a wood cladded box.
In the open-plan living area, the custom-made open fireplace and the black kitchen counter set 2 focal points while the wood cladding of the garage provides a warm background to the soft seating area.
The new roof was designed to maximize the natural light input to the house. The existing roof was replaced by two concrete slabs, which are detached from the stone wall and set at two different heights. During the design stage we worked on many different options for the architectural volume of the house and consequently of the roof. The final solution convinced us as it was able to give to the house a modern design different from the neighbour houses yet very integrated with the natural surrounding. The roof in fact looks like two garden platforms floating above each other in perfect balance with the stone wall below as well as with the slope terrain that envelops the plot. The lower northern roof covers the living room and the garage and it is designed as a roof terrace. It is shorter than the existing stone wall length and creates two gardens in the east and in the west of the house. These gardens increase the natural of light from different angles.
The higher roof in the south is shifted to the west to allow a passage to the lower roof terrace and avoid to project shadow to the east courtyard.
The different heights of the roofs are responding to in the terraced degradation of the plot and the surrounding. The gap in between the 2 roofs allows more natural light to penetrate in the central part of the building and it is improving the natural ventilation during the warm seasons.
Below the higher roof in the south part of the new house are located the bedrooms. They enjoy a contemplative feeling thanks to their high ceilings and high-rise windows. Each room has a private bathroom. The bedrooms are connected by a passage which is elevated by three steps to the adjacent living area.
Next to the bedrooms, in the southeast corner, a tunnel connects the new house with to the existing residential building. As the belonging plots are separated by a side road, this passage passes through a tunnel under the road.
As a result, for the view from the terrace of the existing house is enriched by two floating green roofs in balance with the panoramic scene to the Great Wall.
In HGW the architecture and the interior are based on the idea to have few but meaningful interventions to create a space that is essential in decoration but rich in experience.
The previous structure and function are visible and an important part of the design as the intervention should make visible the balance of old and new.
We see architecture as a tension between light and material where the design is a play between voids and solids. The voids are carved out to lead the light in while the solid elements bring materiality to the space.
In the HGW, the design plays with the materiality of the existing stone wall, the concrete roofs and the wooden box that hides the garage. This element are combined with shift of the position of the two roof slabs from the perimeter of the existing wall to create gaps and cavities that allow the light in from multiple points.
The light is in fact a continuous gradient of indirect brilliances coming from all directions and changing from the early morning to the evening.
The big window on the north façade provide a diffuse light in the living room. This light is softened by the reflection of the windows in between the roof: the light is bounces on the white division wall to the bedroom and reaches the living room with a softer intensity. If in the early morning the east courtyard let the sun to penetrate in the living room, in the late afternoon the warm light of the sunset reflects on the stone wall of the yard and bring inside the house a special golden vibrancy.
All the openings located in different location of the house receive different quality of light and contribute constantly like different instruments playing for a symphony.
Walking around the house you have a strong sense of consistency but once you settle down in one specific place, different details and materials emerge from the general environment and become the character that define an intimate zone. Once you move up and walk, all the elements of the house come together again and gives you the feeling of a space that expand and open up to the outdoor.


Design oriented, the young italian-german architectural practice by architects Margret Domko and Momo Andrea Destro ties together fresh approaches and high technical skills.
Based in Beijing and Berlin, MDDM STUDIO develops architectural and interior projects in mainland China and in Europe.
It has received international recognition and awards. MDDM STUDIO works has been published in the most important magazines or websites and exhibited at Venice architecture biennial.
MDDM STUDIO most recent project has been published in magazine such as AD China , Elle Decore China, Frame international, or in the most visited website dedicated to design and architecture such as,, has nominated MDDM STUDIO among the 20 promising young design offices in China from 2017.In 2018 MDDM STUDIO has won ICONIC Awards BEST OF THE BEST 2018 of the German Design Council and has been selected in the China Interior Design Annual 2019 by Elle Deco China.
In 2019 MDDM STUDIO has been nominated among the 100 most influential Architects in China by Architectural Digest China (AD100) and picked by as one of the “10 Chinese interior designer worth knowing about”.
House on the Great Wall has been Shortlisted in Dezeen Awards 2019 among the 53 best building of the 2018-2019 and has won the Silver Award at Design for Asia Awards in Hongkong in 2019.
Margret Luise Domko (1981) is a German architect graduated at the University of Applied Science in Rosenheim in 2004.Her thesis project about the AbspannwerkWilhelmsruh in Berlin won the Hans Heinrich Müller Prize.
Since 2003 she was working for several architectural practices in Germany, New York and Beijing.
In 2011 she started working for standardarchitecure and became partner associate in 2012 before co-founding MDDM STUDIO.
During her carrier as architect she has participate and won several international competitions in Germany, USA and China working with client such as Novartis and Soho China.
Margret lead numerous projects from concept to the construction phase. This gives her a broad and deep experience of the design process and sub-sequentially the ability to manage ambitious project in every stage.
Momo Andrea Destro (Febrary 1979) is an Italian architect experienced in designing and managing complex projects combining sophisticate design with precise execution.
He graduated with maximum marks and special distinction with a thesis on new urban typologies for emerging countries at the University of Florence.
He started his carrier as architect collaborating with Studio Archea in Florence and since 2008 in Beijing, China. In 2010 he became partner associate of Archea as director of the Beijing office.
He co-founded MDDM STUDIO with the aim of working in China, Germany and Italy with different scales of projects including office building, residential housing and public buildings.
Beside the practice of the studio he participate to forums and conferences organized by institutions such as the Chinese Ministry of housing and Urban-Rural Development or the Italian Embassy in China. He regularly lectures at universities or cultural institutions.