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Condition_Lab is a Design Research Laboratory based within the School of Architecture at CUHK. Established in 2018, our primary focus is to improve people’s lives through design.

The Lab’s research resolves around designing socially responsible architectural prototypes. By working hand-in-hand with local partners on real sites, our aim is to develop projects that foster a better sense of community. The prototype acts as a vessel to generate new knowledge about how people inhabit their environment.

Our philosophy revolves around the paradox embedded into the word “condition”, as a noun it refers to a context, a circumstance, or a situation, while as a verb it implies change - to condition something based on an original state.




Condition_Lab © 2020 School of Architecture,
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
 



Condition_Lab is a Design Research Laboratory based within the School of Architecture at CUHK. Established in 2018, our primary focus is to improve people’s lives through design.

The Lab’s research resolves around designing socially responsible architectural prototypes. By working hand-in-hand with local partners on real sites, our aim is to develop projects that foster a better sense of community. The prototype acts as a vessel to generate new knowledge about how people inhabit their environment.




Elective 
Gaobu, 2016
Reactivating the Gaobu Village


“Architecture is about people.”
Diébédo Francis Kéré, Architect, Copenhagen July 2015.

The African architect Diébédo Francis Kéré approach to architec-ture represents a clear departure from the formalistic and self-ref-erential trends that have dominated the contemporary architectural discourse in recent years. Kéré’s position presents a profound trans-formation in this respect towards a notion of architecture that en-gages directly with local communities and fosters local innovation and craftsmanship.

This workshop starts from the premise that architecture can be a ve-hicle for collective expression and empowerment, by working close-ly with local communities understanding their social customs as well as their traditional craftsmanship a new civic approach towards architecture can be achieved that awakens an awareness towards social, sustainable and economic issues facing populations in rural Chinese minority villages and beyond.

The Dong Ethnic Minority people are one of China’s 55 ethnic groups recognized by the People’s Republic of China, who live mostly between the regions of eastern Guizhou, western Hunan and northern Guangxi and consist of just under 3 million people. They have a long history of more than 1000 years dating back to Liao peoples and over the centuries have developed a rich culture steeped in tradition and folklore that is strongly connected with the structure of their village settlements.

The Dong rural settlements and the associated traditional timber architecture possesses distinctive and unique characteristics which play a major part in the Dong’s national culture. This uniqueness has to date been recognized both nationally and internationally, culminated in 2006 with 41 Dong villages being included in a pre-liminary list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.

Dong society is organized around the concept of Kuan which is a form of hierarchical social organization, with a common ancestor or elder at its core; Kuan society links many households that are form of hierarchical social organization, with a common ancestor or elder at its core; Kuan society links many households that are blood relatives to form a larger family unit. Each family unit con-structs a drum tower that is regarded as a symbol of the family’s wealth and status.

Drum towers are considered the center of the Dong’s cultural and spiritual life. They are located according to feng-shui rules and all other buildings in the village must not exceed the height of the village’s drum tower. Drum towers also function as a type of totem pole and a spiritual symbol for each large family unit, where im-portant events such as celebrating a baby’s first month of life and naming, as well as public gatherings, debates, official announce-ments, dancing and singing events are all held.

Unfortunately, the Dong communities today are confronted with very real problems that are challenging both their social structure as well as their economic livelihoods: namely rapid urbanization. The impact of urbanization, which is affecting many Chinese rural sites, brings very practical and immediate problems to the Dongs; Structural decay of village– of abandoned dwellings with most 3 working members of the community opting to leave the villages and work in the city; the disappearance of traditional craftsmanship such as carpentry, which as a trade cannot compete economically with modern construction techniques and finally the commercial-ization of their cultural heritage to attract tourists.

The issues central to this research workshop relate to understand-ing how public “Social Spaces” of the Dong rural settlements (such as the drum towers but not exclusively), the corner stone of their integrated and balanced society for centuries, can not only remain relevant amidst this rural diaspora, but become active focal hubs of the community.


Period
22nd Jun - 2nd Jul, 2016



Instructor
Prof. Peter W. Ferretto
Prof. CAI Ling



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