John Lin bestowed a 2021 Graham Foundation grant

John Lin bestowed a 2021 Graham Foundation grant

More from Graham Foundation

Project title

Renovation Toolbox: A guided tour of innovative houses by self-builders in rural China

Project abstract

“Renovation Toolbox: A guided tour of innovative houses by self-builders in rural China” develops a series of short movies to spread stories of vernacular adaptations.

It has been over 50 years since Architecture Without Architects introduced vernacular or “non-pedigreed” architecture to a wider audience. Revisiting Rudofsky’s premise on vernacular architecture through the lens of contemporary China is to be confronted with abandonment, infrastructural collisions, mutations, adaptations, and contested territories. What we find today is a transitional life-style through a hybrid way of living. Stories of structural adaptation of traditional houses often happen alongside social and community transformation. The films act as “guided tours” of these transformations, narrating the design responses that negotiate between traditional housing forms and the changing conditions of the rural village. The goal is to bring the research to life actively demonstrating to governments and self-builders the culturally and environmentally sustainable benefit of adapting traditional houses as opposed to abandonment.

Project statement

The underpinning research uncovered examples of innovative, sustainable and efficient renovations of vernacular houses done by spontaneous builders in four remote locations in rural China. These renovated houses have already been represented through photographs and drawings in the previous research project, but in order to bring the research to life and to actively demonstrate the benefits of adapting traditional houses, a series of follow up films will be developed. The films act as “guided tours” of the renovations, making those remote houses virtually accessible.

There will be four films, each one corresponding to a vernacular house typology that emerged from the previous research (underground houses in Sanmenxia, Shanxi; wooden houses in Guizhou, Guiyang; collective houses in Longyan, Fujian; and seasonal houses in Shangri-La, Yunnan). The aim is to encourage people to consider adaptation as alternative over cheaply available building methods that are currently transforming the rural landscape. The project will also potentially influence policy in vernacular houses preservation. The understanding of adaptation as a viable strategy can help to reduce the abandonment of traditional houses and ensure the longevity of vernacular structures.

The films will have a greater impact on the actual production of the rural built environment – much of which is made without architects.

John Lin bestowed a 2021 Graham Foundation grant