In 2008 the great Sichuan earthquake struck China resulting in damage to over 30 million houses. 46 million people were affected. The total reconstruction effort was immense and involved rebuilding 47,789 villages. The Jintai Village Prototype was unique among all these villages. From October 19th -20th, 2018, as part of the ten-year anniversary of the earthquake, over 100 provincial leaders and other government officials participated in the The Sichuan Provincial Rural Culture Conference – an official tour of key reconstruction projects in which the design and planning of Jintai was highlighted.
The research, design and process of rebuilding this village went beyond reconstruction of generic village houses to address the rural to urban transformation of housing in China by combining rural elements (e.g., a rooftop farm), and sustainability features in a dense layout reminiscent of urban environments. Having won many architectural awards and been widely visited, published and discussed by the general public in China and the world, the project has had wide impact beyond the issue of earthquake reconstruction. It has influenced government planning and policy at the provincial and county levels, changed the overall public’s perception of rural housing and improved the living standards of the village inhabitants. The design has become a prime example of efficient, sustainable and economical housing suitable for rural areas throughout China.
A total of twenty-two houses were rebuilt including a community center. The design strategy provides four different types of houses, differing in their roof sections. These demonstrate new use of local materials, a green stepped-roof, biogas technologies, and accommodation for pigs and chickens. A vertical courtyard increases light and ventilation and channels rainwater for collection. The design also invests in reed bed waste-water treatment and collective animal rearing. By relating various programs of the village to an ecological cycle, environment responsiveness is heightened, transforming the village into a model for nearby areas.
As design-related research involving a consultative process with multiple feedback loops, it is also changing design approaches in China. The use of various scale models enable active participation in the design process including creating a platform for exchange and negotiation between government and villagers – unlike the usual top-down and government led processes.