Project origin – Xialapu Village administratively subordinates to Wama Township, Longyang District, Baoshan City, Yunnan Province. The local government has always hoped to build an amalgamated dwelling to improve and solve the housing needs of the lonely elderly in the village. At the same time, it can also rent spare rooms to the families of left-behind children who have a long way to go to school at a low price, so as to make it more convenient for them to go to and from school. These rental fees can be used as daily maintenance and related expenses for amalgamated dwellings. According to the local government, the construction cost of this conglomerate must be low, and it must have the function of 22 living rooms. Xialapu Village responded to the national poverty alleviation and relocation policy in 2018, The scattered people are concentrated here, and a new village is being planned and built. The pattern of the new village has changed from random growth to deliberately planned fan-shaped belt layout, and its architecture has also changed from traditional soil-based houses to modern frame commercial and residential buildings, which is a “standard” modern new rural style. The amalgamated dwelling is located in the east corner of the new village. Seeing that the existing new countryside is surrounded by white walls and tiles, we plan to design an “earthen” house with local materials and continue the local traditional architectural style, so as to preserve the collective memory of the villagers. In addition, we also invited the “One Specialized Village” team as a design cooperation agency to participate in the project.
Project site – The construction land of this project is a rectangle with a width of 10 meters and a depth of 28 meters, so its construction area is only 280 square meters. In order to meet the functionality of its 22 rooms, we adopted the inner corridor layout, because this is the most efficient way to use it. If this building is only one floor, the axis width of its single room is 2.3 meters, so its functional space will be limited. However, if we design it as a three-story building, it will exceed the budget and also exceed the maximum bearing capacity of the earth wall. Therefore, after much cogitation, we think that the most appropriate strategy is to design a two-story building with 11 residential rooms on each floor, and the scale and volume of such a building are also the most appropriate.
Project design – This is our first time designing rural architecture, which is a new leap because we have undertaken urban architectural design before. Although the service target has changed from the so-called rich or middle class to the low-income poor group, in fact, the essence of our design has not changed, and the villagers living in the house are the core of our design. We hope that in addition to ensuring the basic functional needs of 22 villagers, we can also enrich their lives in the house, and the design of the room can be closer to the daily life of the villagers. Therefore, we make a trade-off in space utilization, that is, we give up the inherent residential mode of “minimum public area to be shared + maximum usable area”. We do not consider the maximum area of a single room, but only keep its accommodation function in a single room and make room for shared space as much as possible, hoping to inspire the villagers to use the room for multiple purposes, as well as enriching their living experience.
Entrance and yard – In my memory, there is a village entrance in the village, and a big tree is planted at the village entrance. Men, women, and children sit around the big tree and talk about their parents’ shortcomings. I believe this unique place bears the spiritual life of several generations of villagers. Imaging the Small from the Big, if the amalgamated dwelling is the epitome of a village, our original design intention is to find the collective memory space that modern villagers have lost. We first moved the street face of the building inward by 3 meters and then built a red brick wall in the middle of this 3-meter space to separate the interior and exterior of the building. This red brick wall not only effectively isolates the view, but also serves as a screen for the internal corridor. 100 meters to the north of the project is a rural kindergarten, where the left-behind children in the amalgamated dwelling go to school. A brick seat is specially designed outside the red brick wall. Every afternoon, the old people will sit here, expecting their grandchildren to return home while Chongkezi (a kind of southwest dialect meaning interesting gossip). Then, we gave way to a small courtyard in the west building, which was enclosed on three sides, and a staircase was designed at one end of the connecting corridor, and a tree was planted, plus the entrance area, thus successfully creating a “village entrance” space for amalgamated dwellings. We hope that this place can bring abundant spiritual food to the villagers who gather in their houses.
Corridors and balconies – In this part of the design, We have widened the long corridor by more than 20 meters, and Increased the minimum corridor width required in the specification from 1.2 meters to 2.4 meters, In this way, this pure traffic space will have a higher utilization rate. For example, villagers can set up tables in the corridor for dinner, and long table banquets can be set up on special festivals. Children can chase and play in the corridor to their heart’s content. This shared corridor can effectively promote communication between neighbors and is more conducive to creating a harmonious living atmosphere.
We set aside a row of lighting wells on the west side of the second floor, which can not only ensure the lighting of the corridor but also improve the lighting rate of six rooms on the west side of the first floor. Every villager has the basic need of a separate kitchen. However, the gas pipeline has not yet reached the countryside, which is limited by space and it is not feasible to cook with firewood. Therefore, induction cooker has become the best choice for villagers. At this time, oil fume discharge is a problem that must be considered, so it is necessary to give each household an independent semi-outdoor area so that each household can discharge cooking fumes;; The rooms on the east side can vacate their balcony space by adjusting the entry mode, while the rooms on the second floor on the west side can increase the balcony space of each household by picking out, but the rooms on the first floor on the west side cannot spare independent space. Therefore, we consider making full use of the spacious corridor space to solve the problem of oil fume exhaust in the room on the first floor of the west side. We elevated the lighting well so that it can take into account the function of the smoke well, and reserved enough operating space for scrubbing the bottom of the glass. In this way, the problem of oil fume exhaust of this part of residents is skillfully solved. When the villagers don’t cook, these independent semi-outdoor spaces are also the best places for each household.
Local climate strategy – Xialapu Village is a mild area but is affected by a subtropical monsoon climate, it has obvious mountain three-dimensional climate characteristics. In addition, the annual average temperature difference in this village is small, the temperature difference between day and night is large, and the annual solar radiation is also high. In design, in order to create a comfortable indoor thermal environment, we fully consider the influence of mountain microclimate on the indoor comfort of buildings, that is, realize the architectural function of “summer vacation during the day and cold protection at night”. We have carried out semi-overhead treatment such as a small courtyard, balcony, and stairs on the ground floor promenade of more than 20 meters, which can effectively shade the sun and ensure proper ventilation, thus forming a cool summer space on the ground floor. Building exterior wall can make full use of the thermal storage performance of rammed earth wall, and can be a good buffer zone for indoor and outdoor thermal environment. When the outdoor temperature is high during the day, rammed earth wall will absorb too much heat, thus the direct impact of outdoor temperature change on indoor thermal environment can be effectively avoided and indoor thermal comfort can be effectively adjusted.
We strictly control the area ratio of westward window to wall, and design the west wall of the room on the first floor as a small high window, while the west balcony door on the second floor is designed as a combination of solid door and small glass window. This design can not only meet certain indoor lighting requirements, but also avoid the consequences of excessive indoor thermal environment caused by the west sun. The annual rainfall in Xialapu Village is about 1100 mm, which has exceeded the average in subtropical climate. Local traditional native dwellings mostly adopt the form of two-story sloping roof, the bottom layer is used for living, and the top layer is used as a storage space and a climate buffer zone to reduce excessive heat entering the indoor living space. After fully referring to the local traditional sloping roof, we designed the roof of the collective residence as upper and lower double layers, with steel frame glazed tile sloping roof on the upper layer and concrete flat roof on the lower layer. This double roof not only has better waterproof effect, but also can form an effective ventilation layer to take away excessive heat. Therefore, the roof of the collective residence has successfully realized the modern translation of the traditional roof form.
Construction This project adopts the construction strategy of “local materials, local craftsmen and local technology”. In order to meet the requirements of low-cost construction and ensure the appearance and living comfort of “earth” houses, earth walls should be used as load-bearing walls instead of maintenance walls. This requires us to modernize, improve and optimize the traditional rammed earth technology on the basis of absorbing the wisdom of traditional construction. Firstly, according to the local soil particle size distribution, we optimized the soil material ratio to improve the strength of the wall. In structure, we set up reinforced concrete ring beams and constructional columns to strengthen the whole structure of rammed earth wall, and then optimize the overall performance and seismic performance of rammed earth wall structure; Secondly, we use aluminum alloy form work to construct rammed earth wall. This mechanical ramming method greatly enhances the flatness and compactness of the soil wall. In addition, we also put forward the concept of endogenous development, that is, try to train local craftsmen in modern rammed earth skills in order to improve their skills. This can effectively empower local craftsmen and increase their employment opportunities.
Postscript A few days ago, we returned to Xialapu Village for a return visit and filming of the project. Up to now, 6 families have moved into the amalgamated dwelling, and the rest of the villagers are ready to move into it one after another. It was a great relief to us as architects that the dwellings were well received by the elderly and children.