China has set itself the goal of transforming half of its rural population of 700 million people into productive, comfortable members of urban conglomerations in the next three decades. Thus far, the process has moved along with a great deal of work for civil and mechanical engineers and the construction industry, but very little role for architects in the generically styled concrete and brick urban buildings. Award-winning architect at the University of Hong Kong John Lin and his associates believe that this process of urbanization also calls for a flexible approach to house design in rural areas.
…Lin’s recently completed project looks at the role of the stereotypic village house and attempts to propose a prototype which reaches toward contemporary living styles while respecting the functionality and traditions of the past.
Rural life in China is centered around the domestic courtyard, where much of daily life takes place. Most of a village’s open space is within the walls of the houses, which tends to turn most social customs and rituals inward. The courtyards of a house are designed to be supportive of the activities taking place in the nearest rooms, setting up a relationship that is visual and functional. Basically, the house is designed around the courtyards…
The history of many countries teaches that the process of rural development favors the destruction and abandonment of the traditional in favor of the new, often at a rate that makes the rural population uneasy and insecure. The Shijia Village Houses reflect an attempt to bridge between the two extremes and preserve the intelligence and experience embedded in the use of local materials and techniques.
Functionality, adaptation of the old to new use, simple and cost-efficient, the best of modern architecture serves needs as old as collective society has ever been – and will be – even as regional and national economy changes.