Creation of Banwan Village / Almost studio
Traditional Bouyei villages in the mountains
Banwan Village is located in the mountains of southwestern Guizhou Province. It is a very well preserved traditional Buyi village due to its remoteness. In 2016, the village of Banwan was selected to be the target of reconstruction by the television channel. They built a primary school there. After the mass shooting, the mountain fell silent again. Non-profit organizations manage minor renovations up to the village. At the end of 2020, “Almost Studio” entered the mountain relying on the work of senior designers. He presided over the design of the transformation of traditional Bouyei buildings and the environmental construction of the entire village. State-of-the-art technology is not necessary in rural areas, the countryside needs a “not so smart” architect. Sometimes rural design has nothing to do with popular aesthetics. he asks architects to patiently root themselves in the site, to design architectural issues from a local perspective with local materials. Architects should assess the technical level of the construction team and consider logistics and costs, ignore design limitations, and effectively solve local problems
Form and traditional architectural issues of Bouyei
Traditional Bouyei architecture is typically a 3-bay house, Ganlan architecture. The rammed earth wall sits on the foundation of the land and the building on stilts is a column-and-beam timber construction. The main room is full height, with two floors on the sides; The first floor is for bedrooms and fire ponds, and the second floor is used for storage. The penthouse is on one side of the building. Poultry are raised in air spaces. The traditional Bouyei construction technology is relatively simple. The main problem is that the wall and roof are not waterproof and insulated, poor lighting, crude toilets and chaotic circuit design. Banwan village lacks funds and manpower, and logistics costs are high. The architect designed the transformation scheme according to the conditions of each house, explored the suitable building materials and considered the budget. While we have continuously optimized the structure and knot practices with the progress of construction.
The architect referred to modern building insulation and sealing practices, explored the building scheme with local workers based on the general rural style. The design improved lighting conditions in combination with local adjustment of the facade by introducing modern light transmission materials such as glass and solar plate. The functional layout adapts to the usage habits of modern people, the space on the second floor is enlarged and the furniture is personalized. In addition, toilets are improved by rebuilding penthouses or digging upper floors depending on the situation of each house.
At the construction stage, the designer settled in the village for 4 months and renovated the village together with the construction team and the locals. Due to the lack of common construction materials and the limited local technical means of the construction team, conventional construction plans and knot details are difficult to guide site work. Therefore, the designer used the mobile platform’s modeling and drawing software, and continuously improved materials and construction methods through repeated discussions and experiments with workers and villagers on site, so as to solve problems with a more local strategy.
Design process adapted to rural areas
The traditional commercial design process – blueprint, model, rendering, construction drawing – is not well suited due to slow response, high cost and poor communication efficiency in the practice of rural revitalization . In practice, the designer developed a new workflow – using mobile office equipment and corresponding drafting software – to go back and forth between the site and the office, in order to solve problems quickly during construction. Accuracy of mapping drawings cannot meet design requirements. Architects measure the site by walking, recording every tree and platform using UAVs. Establish the sense of scale, arrange the flow line according to the relief, and directly design the scheme on site to guide the construction. Once the architect has completed the concrete knowledge of the site, he can optimize the design scheme according to the construction schedule remotely.
Local design, elastic design, the campaign can grow on its own
The vast rural area engenders the primitive and simple aesthetic feeling. Designers should perceive this beauty and shape the environment with the least amount of labor and economic costs. During the construction, we built a dirt garden with terracing, a fence woven with local bamboo and flower beds decorated with the old tiles removed from the roof. All these creations are not computer drawings, but spontaneous actions of local people during construction. The architect observes and optimizes these structures, he creates a vitality and a beauty that is completely different from urban commercial design in the countryside by stepping back. In the mountains, we are tiny. Human traces are fragile. Only natural has had a long history here. The village can grow in its own way, which contains the will of plants, animals and land, and the enthusiasm of all villagers when building. The architect made an “almost” design which is so different from the “accurate” commercial design and continues to try to strike a balance between original aesthetic taste and modern design technology.