Located at the southwest of Guizhou Province, the Bapan is an ancient village of Buyi minority people, started in Ming Dynasty and presently a grade A poverty village according to national standard. This project is specifically targeted to support the poor and to rescue the distinguishing local traditional houses. Many of those houses are deserted and need to be revitalized. A positive dialogue between the old timber structure and the new concrete houses in the village is needed to be set up urgently.
The idea is to open three big windows for the initially dark, enclosed and inward-looking space, while preserving the style of traditional Buyi residence. The ‘Window of Stars’ opens to the sky. The ‘Window of Tea’enjoys the green bamboo forest beyond. And the the ‘Window of Book’observes people around. The interior and exterior join together and the connection leads to the surrounding nature.
As the newly build houses nearby are all made of reinforced concrete structure, we introduce concrete as a material that relates the context. A concrete platform rises partially as a new base where the old timber structure sits on. As a result the internal space gains 800mm in height. Traditionally, only the main level with the appropriate headroom can be used as the living area. The attic was only for storage and the lower level for live stocks. We lifted the timber structure, and changed the elevation of the attic floor slightly. As a result, a cozy attic space with pitched roof and skylight and a shaded sandpit playground surrounded by paddy fields are created on the two levels respectively for kids to play and study.
The main entrance, a part of the Window of Book, and walls near kitchen are painted in red that represents a local tradition. Some old timber blocks and door planks are dismantled, and reused as the giant tea table and stools in the landscape. Local textile is cleverly mixed with furniture design. A series of bamboo poles across the main space, which originally used to hang handmade paper sheets, are now symbolically adapted into a small bridge, connecting attic spaces at two ends and with a stair touching the ground level.
Local and natural materials, such as timber and bamboo, etc. are used and recycled.
New thermal layer and water proofing system are upgraded and remodeled. Existing roofing tiles are reused. Some structural timbers in poor conditions are replaced. The internal timber structure is replenished.
The design encourages natural ventilation by providing skylight at the rooftop and big windows at bottom so the airflow takes away the internal heat.
Local vegetation are planted on the rooftop of guestrooms to reduce the solar heat and to keep the indoor environment comfortable.
The site is surrounded by rice fields just as an elevated island, which becomes a focal point in its surroundings. The house with a giant tree in the background and miles of mountains in a distance naturally possesses a spirit according to the local believes. Taking advantage of this location, this spiritual centre successfully attracts different activities.
After the renovation, the building will not only serve as a village cultural center, showcase and promote Buyi culture and tradition, but also a platform for the dialogue between the locals and outsiders. The children's reading area where bookshelves are designed as grand steps is used for story-telling and group teaching. There is a widely worshiped giant tree at the back yard of the house. Under its shade there is a gathering and performing space for local music known as Eight Tone Music, which is the local intangible cultural heritage.
This is a small project, yet a very big one at the same time because of its social meanings.
In China, there are countless types of vernacular houses around the whole country throughout the history, which shape our cultural diversity and regional identity. However, in the last 10 years, while the economy grows rapidly, more and more easy-to-build universal concrete buildings, which is lack of differentiation and characters, occupy the once picturesque countryside. The harmony between nature and man made is severely damaged.
The architects strive to respect and rescue the traditional value, trying to find an approach to revitalize it within the contemporary social and physical context.
This is the first project of a series of Bapan poverty alleviation projects. Despite the limitation of local construction conditions and tight budget we try to explore a possibility that how a traditional architecture can be modernized yet preserving and revitalizing the local culture. It may be a huge amount of work and a long way to go. But if the idea disseminates, it will make a big difference.
STUDIO A+ was founded by Ms. Min Wang in 2007. STUDIO A+（ARCHITECTURE + INTERIOR + LANDSCAPE + PRODUCT） is a young and vigorous design team aiming to provide innovative architectural, Interior Architectural, Landscape Architectural, Industrial and Product design solutions for clients. By its name the studio covers multi-disciplinary areas yet specializes high quality comprehensive design solutions. Studio A+ completes architecture and a better life by the means of design.
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