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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.





House Mutations
Hong Kong, 2019
UGC Research Grant
House Mutations:
Prototype Solutions for a Prefabricated Self-build Timber House in Rural China


This design research proposal investigates the feasibility to build an alternative timberhouse typology for the Dong Minority community in Hunan, China.  The goal is to createa design template for a self-build dwelling from prefabricated timber componentsaddressing two critical issues currently facing the Dong community, i.e.: preventing theirrich architectural culture from moving ever closer towards extension and, to propose anew commercial model to inject a financial stimulus into an area that has witnessed ahuge exodus of working adults who seek employment in the city.

For centuries the Dong communities have been almost entirely self-sufficient, with the environment in which they lived being a measure of their standard of living. The“Ganlan” style wooden house “hanging building”, built on the slopes and supported bypillars on the lower sides, embodies the natural relationship between the interior andexterior worlds, connected to the core values of their culture: family and land – thearchetype sustainable house.  Although the Ganlan house constitutes the basic unit ofcommunity life, as Dong villages are rendered devoid of working age youth, traditional Dong architecture has lost ground and meaning.

The unfortunate ramificationsresulting in the traditional house rapidly being replaced by either brick and wooddwellings or most recently by the self-build concrete framed structures. There is no denying that Dong culture is changing.  Villages and houses are rapidlyadapting to a higher standard of living; warmer, safer from the perils of fire andequipped with modern plumbing.  However, what we are witnessing today is nothingshort of a catastrophic demise, with the advent of concrete frame structures literallyeradicating an entire architectural heritage.  With the notion of prefabrication, selfbuild and community participation all engraved into Dong’s architectural DNA, thisresearch proposes an alternative modernization strategy that reconnects the house to itsoriginal cultural identity and in parallel prevents Dong’s traditional architecturalheritage from becoming a mere aesthetic maquillage instead of something profoundlyrooted in its material being.

Traditional Dong timber houses will soon no longer be built, replaced by a hybridconcrete pastiche, completely foreign to the territory.  Rather than yield to this trend,this research seeks to propose an alternative solution, in the form of a pilot prototypehouse, where material technology and self-build initiatives could become the catalyst forboth regenerating their house typology and simultaneously create an alternative industryas a source of income to the community.



Fund
HKD 1, 066, 500

Period
2020 - 2022

Research Team
Prof. Peter W. Ferretto
LAM Man Yan Milly
LIU Ziwei Paula
WONG Yuk Tsin Beryl

Collaboration
Guangzhou University
Prof. CAI Ling
The University of Western Australia
Prof. Beale Patrick


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