Song House a glimpse at the future of housing

When a family in China approached architectural firm AZL Architects to create a house that could accommodate four generations, they probably didn’t expect that a wheelchair ramp would become the main design element.

But that’s what they got with Song House, a modern three-story, five-bedroom home made of concrete in the rural town of Nansong, China. The house was designed for four generations: a 50-something couple and three older relatives, some of whom occasionally need wheelchairs. There’s also space for the couple’s daughter, her husband, and their child.

The key feature is a smoothly sloped ramp that goes around the home’s exterior perimeter (similar to the ramp that wraps around the inside of New York’s Guggenheim Museum), giving the home’s wheelchair users easy access between the bottom floor and the first floor. The bottom floor has private quarters for one of the older relatives, and the first floor has three bedrooms. The second floor belongs to the granddaughter and features a bedroom and play space.

According to the architects, the idea is that everyone can feel connected when they want to, but enjoy privacy when they don’t. As populations age around the world, this AZL Architects design offers a compelling model of the future of housing: homes designed not just for able-bodied, nuclear families, but for the different needs that span multiple generations.

This feature was originally published in