Village Prototype Workshop:
Dong Minority Village of Gaobu, Hunan
Date & Time21.07.2017 30.07.2017
In July 2017, the School of Architecture, CUHK, in partnership with Guangzhou University and Hunan University, organised the second “Village Reactivation” workshop in the Dong minority village of Gaobu, located along the Pingtao River in Hunan Province.
Led by Prof. Peter Ferretto and his counterparts from the partnering institutions, the 10-day workshop involved 50 students from the three universities, including 15 MArch and BSSc students from CUHK. They teamed up to design and fabricate a series of nine architectural prototypes with the aim to address specific public and social issues related to the well-being of the rural community.
Gaobu is a prime example of an active village rich in cultural heritage, while the Dong people are renowned for their elaborate timber structures such as the Drum Tower and the Wind and Rain Bridge, which are facing challenges related to the rapid advent of modernisation in China. The greatest impact by far concerns the migration of working-age population. “Village hollowing”, as is the case in so many other Chinese villages, is transforming Gaobu into a community of binary population, young or old.
Working in teams of around five each, the participating students fabricated timber prototypes addressing issues such as abandoned public spaces, new playgrounds for children, activation of the river waterfront, among others. Each team not only had to conceive a design idea but also work closely with three local carpenters in the fabrication of the structure, made from indigenous fir trees cut into tectonic components by the students. The final proposals were presented to the villagers at the end of the workshop, in the form of an exhibition held in a public square in the community.
The workshop enabled students to engage physically in constructing their designs – a first for many of them – and at the same time participate actively in the local community. The exhibition was filmed by CCTV, relating the workshop to the wider question of heritage preservation versus village regeneration.