8 Elements of the Traditional Country Estate for Developers in China

8 Elements of the Traditional Country Estate for Developers in China


Following our design work on the Dragon Palace resort, we were asked to design a series of palatial homes in the spectacular mountain landscape of Anji.  Let me start by explaining this is not a typical development. The developer saw this as part of his legacy so quality and timelessness was of prime importance, as it was in traditional county estates throughout history.


The idea of the country estate and its history varies among countries.  Here I will focus on developments in the USA during our industrialization as this has similarities to the markets in China today.  Traditionally, these expansive homes were expressions of the success, wealth, and social status of the owners.  The owners were often titans of business and industry. They were truly custom homes filled with art and cultural elements from around the world. The owners often had many properties covering the urban home, country estate, waterfront cottage, and nature retreat. The country estate was unique in that it bridged the urban life and outdoor activities.  These homes allowed the owner a near by escape from city life to enjoy nature and take part in outdoor activity. By being close, they could have numerous guest for country house weekends and family fun.


As I thought about but the idea of a country estate in China I made a list of the elements that need to be included for this special market.


  1. The site is in the natural beauty, but close enough to urban life that you can visit on a weekend.  It is convenient to have many guests for events and entertaining. It cannot be a plane ride away. It needs to be close enough to be used on a moments notice.
  2. Each home needs to be far from its neighbors. 60 – 80 meters is ideal. In typical development we minimize the side yard setback to sell as many homes as possible.  No doubt food for business but the county estate is different. Each home is to be unique and on it’s own piece of land with complete privacy. You must feel as if you own the landscape.
  3. Since sports and activity is an important part of this lifestyle there should be a floor for a spa and swimming pool.
  4. There should be an entertaining floor and it should be generous.  The close-in nature of a country estate makes guests a larger part of the experience.
  5. One of a kind views are key. Each room needs to have views that take your breath away.  In any direction, nature is the focus and if neighbors are seen at all, they should be in the far distance.
  6. The homes needs outside living.  As mentioned above, outdoor activities and sports are common and so is the outdoor lifestyle.  When you are surrounded by such beauty why stay indoors? Outdoor living rooms and dining rooms are a must.
  7. The design should contribute to the architectural legacy and be as custom as possible.  Traditional country estates were completely custom.  The owners hired an architect who designed in a style considered elegant and in good taste.  Through great design they were able to express their cultural understanding, sophistication, and appreciation of the arts.
  8. The landscape is also part of the architectural expression.  Since the site is so central to the lifestyle of the country estate, the landscape design should merge and be an extension of the overall architectural vision.


Now…..some of you will say all this isn’t possible in China for a variety of reasons. Regulations discourage or make detached villas illegal. Traditional developers will always maximize every square meter to maximize profit. True custom design isn’t a reality for a community development. China has a huge population and the FAR requirements won’t allow this.  All of this is true and presents great challenges.


When the client, building site, and owners’ vision all align it can all become possible and be a truly special and rare project.  This is why we are so excited to be involved with this project in Anji where construction will begin soon!

If you would like to research more about the historical master architects responsible for designing the country estate here are a few names.

McKim Mead & White

Richard Morris Hunt


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