As Found Houses
Experiments from self-builders in rural China
John Lin, Sony Devabhaktuni
Oro Editions, 2021
In rural China, an informal wave of building catalysed by economic and social developments has rendered some villages unrecognisable. This building boom, taking place in a context of limited regulations, has created densities more often found in urban areas. At the same time, the rapid transformation of rural villages has generated some remarkable hybrid experiments where rural builders use generic construction methods to adapt, modify, graft, cleave and wrap traditional vernacular typologies. These typologies have existed for hundreds of years and represent an accretion of localised building knowledge and cultural identity. Where often these typologies are preserved and maintained as tourist destinations, this book looks at those instances where families transform them to account for new ways of living. By looking closely at these transformations, As Found Houses identifies innovative, informal design responses that negotiate between traditional housing forms and the changing conditions of the rural village.
The book presents the intelligent and surprising solutions applied to house typologies conceived by builders in 4 regions of rural China. Using photographs, axonometric drawings and interviews with the villagers who live in these hybrid experiments, the book situates design solutions within the context of their larger human narratives, thereby challenging ossified understandings of vernacular architecture that treat historical and cultural tradition as static. The book argues that the manifold evolution of the vernacular is part of the every-day practice of the villagers’ lives, and that architecture for them is very much still a home. As Found Houses is a guide to the surprising design decisions found in the domestic architecture of rural China and a resource for thinking about contemporary design.