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FUJIAN

EARTH BUILDING

AUTHOR: KE ZHANG, CHENYU LIN
TRANSLATOR: JAMIE CHEN
PROOFREAD: CHENYU LIN


Fujian, abbreviated as “Min,” is a province with dense water flow and incessant hills. Thus, it is so-called as “eighty percent of mountains, and equally distributed twenty percent of water and field.” Fujian is located at the southeast coast of China, adjoining Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Taiwan from across the strait.

The province has a subtropical monsoon climate and is affected by monsoonal and geographical impact, which often leads to typhoons. 

 

Historically, due to reasons such as the civil wars in central China, a large population from the central plains migrated to the south. Since migrants moved with their entire extended families, they formed a family-centric lifestyle to adapt to the extremely different environment in the south. Living in such a lifestyle was a tradition under the succession of generations, creating the clan concept that is now deeply rooted in Fujian Province. 

 

The emphasis on lineage is reflected by the typical traditional home found in Fujian, most prominently being the Hakka Tulou (Earth Building). Here, the entire extended families live closely to one another. This dwelling created a place for families to bond, and it helps in defending against foreign invasions.

EARTH BUILDING (HAKKA TULOU)

The Hakka Tulou arose in the Song and Yuan dynasties. It matured in the late Ming, Qing dynasties, and Republican Era. Hakka Tulou is famous for its distinctive exterior form. Several of them were inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the World Heritage Site as "exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization [in a] harmonious relationship with their environment". Furthermore, Tulou is often introduced in today’s Chinese literature such as Mulan, Big Fish & Begonia, The Knot, etc.

PATIOS IN JIANGNAN’S

HALL-WELL STYLE RRESIDENCY

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Movie: Big Fish & Begonia
彼岸天文化工作室

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Earth Building
Photo: Chenyu Lin

Fujian Tulou’s design has many of the major characteristics of traditional Chinese residential architecture, including locally sourced materials and meticulously designed symmetrical courtyard. In addition, the architecture's affordability, durability, physicality, defeasibility, incredibility, and other considerations are all taken into account when first designing Tulou in order to form an exclusive family-centered residence. 

 

The square and round structure of the Tulou forms a distinctive architectural landscape of the region by complimenting each other. The square ones, in specific, are developed from the local’s previous experience of living in central China. The rounded Tulou, on the other hand, are shapes that are designed due to the extreme weather conditions in Fujian. Thus, the rounded design reflects the adaptability of traditional Chinese architecture. 

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Earth Building
Photo: Chenyu Lin

In the rounded Hakka Tulou, all the column structures are not vertical, instead, they are inclined towards the center of the circle. Such a structure allows weight to evenly spread out and provides a more sturdy structure. The exterior of Tulou is thickest at the bottom and tapers slightly inward and upward to the rounded tip. This kind of structure creates the finest prestressed centripetal state that can perfectly reduce the impact of harsh weather during earthquakes and typhoons, therefore enabling the building to resist external forces. 

 

Loess and cedar soil are the main building materials of Hakka Tulou. Losses are extracted from the local hillside, where hills around the region are used as stepped fields for growing tea. Therefore, cultivated land will not be damaged or cause soil erosion. Moreover, walls made of loess can be restored to the earth or re-used as crop fertilizer. Loess is then a sustainable material that won’t produce as much construction waste as masonry or concrete. 

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Earth Building
Photo: Chenyu Lin

The Tulou’s rammed earth foundation is built with large cobblestones and is designed above the flood level mark, which prevents the architecture from flooding. The extended eaves that are three meters wide also ensure that rainwater does not enter the interior.

 

The clan tradition of living together and praying for blessings makes the residents of Hakka dwellings habitually gather as a family unit. However, the living composition of "big family, small society" makes Hakka Tulou particularly idiosyncratic.

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Earth Building
Photo: Chenyu Lin

BIG-EIGHT HOUSE

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BIG - EIGHT HOUSE

摄影师:Dragor Luft

Designed in 2006 and completed in 2010 by BIG, the 8 House is an enclosed form of commercial residence. It is located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen, a city with a rich cultural heritage and traditional old buildings lining its streets, the 8 House is a mark yet revolutionary architecture of the innovative form.

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BIG - EIGHT HOUSE

摄影师:Dragor Luft

This butterfly-shaped community covers various functional areas such as residences, stores, offices, kindergartens, etc. Including two public central activity areas for the residents, not only as a playground for activities but also as a park for inhabitants to meet and socialize. The architecture provides all the needs while living there, forming a rich and complete three-dimensional organized community.

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BIG - EIGHT HOUSE

摄影师:Dragor Luft

The problem often faced by enclosed residential architectures is that buildings of the same height can affect natural lighting that is received. The central activity area is also isolated by the surrounding buildings. To resolve the lighting issues for the inward-facing units, two sides of the 8 House have to slope downward and turn into green roofs. The two sloping green roofs are strategically located to reduce the urban heat island effect while ensuring the architecture’s recognition and responding to the surrounding environment. Simultaneously, the continuous slope provides convenient barrier-free access for the disabled and elderlies to more public areas. The 8 House, outwardly, is a residential area with complete facilities and a pleasing environment; inwardly, it is a fully functional, both closed and open cultural center.

 

Fujian’s Hakka Tulou and the 8 House are thousands of miles apart from one another, with one in China and one in Europe. They were also built thousands of years apart, with completely different social backgrounds and cultures. However, they are still similar in a way that the intention is to design a residence that unites humanity and bonds relationships.

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BIG - EIGHT HOUSE

摄影师:Dragor Luft

Special Acknowledgement for Photo Authorization

BIG| Bjarke Ingels Group, https://big.dk/#projects