Images by Rural Urban Framework
Rural to urban migration has been emptying country-sides the world over for the past half-century. People leave behind their extended families and their homes to try and make it in the big city, striving with millions of others in hemmed-in streets, hurtling toward the future. Social critics harp on the dangerous and difficult conditions facing migrants once they arrive in their chosen metropolis, but generally neglect to examine the conditions they leave behind in their rural communities, where they were deprived of skills, labor, and knowledge.
In the village Shijia, near Xi’an, the migration of skilled community members to larger cities has meant the gradual disremembrance and eventual loss of the region’s building heritage. Now, non-local contractors build concrete-and-tile apartment blocks where in past times, villagers had gathered to assemble mud-brick homes as a community. To combat this impoverishment of rural communities, Rural Urban Framework has built a house in Shijia using vernacular techniques and contemporary spatial methodologies to preserve and continue the rural tradition of self-reliance. Continue.
Traditional courtyards punctuate the house
Courtyards form the center of traditional Chinese houses, and serve as their main social and living spaces, creating visual connections between most other rooms in the house. The new structure, called ‘A House For All Seasons’ by its designers, incorporates no less than four courtyards which can be used to store livestock. The house’s flat roof doubles as a workspace for farming tasks like collecting rainwater. The smoke rising from the house’s stove is channeled through a traditional heated bed before exiting the chimney.
The house, then, is a mix of old and new, both in terms of incorporating green technologies, and due to its use of materials: the structure is constructed out of earthquake-resistant concrete while walls are made in the traditional way – out of mud bricks.
The concrete structure is infilled with mud brick walls
A brick screen wraps the entire house, providing privacy