The project tackles a current social issue within the extensive urbanization process in China: the cities keep exploiting the labor and resources of the countryside resulted in the increasing urban-rural disparity in China. Currently the living conditions in large part of rural China are desperate for amelioration. Committed by the municipal government of Hangzhou in China, the project aims at providing 15,300 square meters of affordable housing for 50 households in Dongziguan Village.
The overall project budget is approximately 3 million USD, meaning an average construction cost of 190 USD / 1300 RMB per square meter. This budget is far below the average construction cost, even for the countryside of Hangzhou. How to design and construct quality housing for relocalized farmers with such a low budget, while maintaining their original lifestyle of collective living, becomes the major challenge of this project.
Different from typical bar-shaped highrises built for affordable housing in China, the project seeks to organize the form of the buildings in the vernacular style of a courtyard typology, a local traditional urban morphology. Every six different buildings in two different types of footprints (11x21 meter and 16x14meter) belonging to six different households, surround a courtyard as a place for communal communication and participation. Thus, it forms a cluster and community as a prototype for collective living. This reacts against previous affordable housing projects where traditional modes of communal living were not maintained.
The prototype varies in four different specific types of courtyard in the overall site plan which generated through the aggregation of courtyards following a fundamental principle, providing shared open space. The siteplan also reflects the pattern of vernacular clusters in historical Chinese urban tradition. Out of the fire-safety concern, each building is separated, not sharing the walls.
During the process of layoutting the plan of buildings for each households, architects firstly conducted an investigation to communicate with different families for their living habits and the age structure, and then design the plan layout based on the common requests and information gained. The final layout besides meets the functional requirement, but also indicates a particular spatial order, from public to private towards north.
The buildings are designed in a vernacular language with detailed considerations to the roof. The traditional dual-slope roof is developed into continuous slope roof asymmetrically. The construction materials are mainly grey and white bricks built in different patterns. Wooden panels have been used for mediating the traditional bricks and the contemporary grass.
The design for construction drawings explores the best usage of the brick, steel and glass to ensure the best thermal and ventilation performance. The 24mm brick wall is equipped with waterproof coating and hollow glass and the solid wall varies at the place of stairs with staggered pattern. The roof cantilever out aesthetically reminds the vernacular architectural style in Hangzhou, functionally as part of the shelter considering Hangzhou has a raining season.
Since moving in, the new residents have reported a high quality of life due to the new housing. The project brings an opportunity to regenerate the countryside besides providing quality affordable housing. Now different programs have been attracted to Dongziguan Village, inclusive of hotels and other recreational and commercial activities.