Thus I had this very first experience of fighting, through my own way, against the
village government, and against the central primary school of the town.
We went about, collecting materials deserted at the post-earthquake reconstruction sites.
We lived under harsh conditions but maintained our work.
We had no backups. We didn’t belong to any organization.
Only the volunteers and the villagers supported us.
Finally, we made it.
After the 5.12 Si Chuan earthquake, I worked on a reconstruction programme with architect Hsieh Ying-chun from Taiwan. I would travel between two villages at that time: Liping and Shazhou. There is a river in the middle of these two villages, and my friend Guilin was working there across the river opposite me. At night I rowed a boat to go to his place. At day time I came back by motorcycle. The place where we lived had no proper bed. Wind would break in and dance in the corner. But I thought it was indeed a paradise for us. It was in a mid-night that our boat nearly capsized when we were crossing the river.
Guilin asked me why we were here. After a long time of silence, we decided to build this primary school. He is a programmer. I am an architect. We started to write project proposals and negotiated with the local government and NGOs. We tried to raise money from everywhere possible, although we had failed all along…
The original design had included a school, a health centre, the village committee office and a play ground. The initial vision we had was: in the remote mountain area, there are teachers reading books aloud to their students, the kind-hearted villagers, the bright sunshine, the quiet gardens, and the beautiful rice paddies. People come and go without disturbing each other; rather, they take care of each other.
When the sunshine comes through the window, the twinkling light casts spotted shadows on the wall and floor.However, the head of the village failed to reach an agreement with the secretary of the village’s communist party committee. We only got the right to rebuild the primary school.With the help of a friend who was working on a project in Shazhou, we used the money the World Bank had given him as start-up funding. We recruited volunteers and got ready to build the school by ourselves.
When built in the traditional Chuan-dou style, the wood efficiency ratio was 1 m2 structural timbre/ 11.2 m2 building area. After rebuilding, we have improved the wood efficiency ratio to 1 m3/31.4 m2 building area.
所有的设计想法，都是为了节省材料，降低造价。在原来的建造基础上进行加建原来的建筑面积 为68.3 平方米 结构木料 为6.15 立方米加建后的建筑面积为201 平方米 结构木料 为3.22 立方米传统穿斗是木料效率为1 立方米11.2 平方米的建筑面积改造后的木料效率为1 立方米31.4 平方米的建筑面积
When it comes to seismic resistance, the most serious weakness in the traditional Chuan-dou styled architecture is the lack of lateral restraint. There is an old Chinese saying which goes: even when the wall falls, the house won’t collapse. But why the wall falls? I regard it as a question that deserves our attention. After the earthquake happened, although most of the houses did not collapse, the wood frames had tilted to the sides. This is because, generally speaking, the traditional Chuan-dou structure has no foundational connection. Displacement had taken place in many wooden houses after the earthquake.
Rebuilding the Liping Primary School 里坪小学改造
Building area: 201 m2
Cost: 112,000 RMB (≈1,700 USD)
Time of completion: January 2010
1 Classroom 2 Studio for volunteers 3 Rest-room for volunteers. 4 Library 5 Bedroom for teachers 6 Tea room
完成时间：2010. 年1 月
1 教室 2 志愿者工作站 3 志愿者休息室 4 图书馆 5 老师卧室 6 茶室
A proper reinforcement of the traditional structure does not cause much cost. However, some methods go against the traditional craftsmanship. The local craftsmen usually think these reinforcements are unnecessary, such as lateral bracing. Along with the aging of the connection between tenon and mortise, nodes of the Chuan-dou structure would grow weaker accordingly. In some areas, even without earthquakes, the frame of an old wooden house built in Chuan-dou style would become deformed or displaced because of its lack of lateral restraint. Reinforcement can be done in traditional ways, too. Wood is a kind of material in which the fiber grows vertically. Thus, the bracing could be designed in such a way that with the pull-push rods, the tension would be transformed into pressure.
That night our school was like the Bird Nest, filled with magnificent lights. The villagers and us were singing altogether with our self-made microphone under our self-made stage light.
When the spinning electrical fan drove the iodine lamp over its head, the light on our stage was shining and changing just the same as that on television.
There are lots of restrictions in the traditional wall-building techniques. Rammed earth wall is restricted by the quality of the earth and the season. Adobe wall is restricted by the structure. In addition, they both demand a lot of time and extensive labour, which lacks flexibility. We adjusted the method and found the advantages as follows:Unaffected by the quality of the earth;High flexibility in practice; Less labour;Superior humidity-resistance;Easy plastering.
The polystyrene foam boards used as insulation layer were the leftover from the makeshift modular houses that were torn down during the post-earthquake reconstruction. We went out to pick them back every day. The water-proof layer is a thick layer of plastic sheet, which was the original roof of the primary school. When the rebuilding was under way, the children were in their summer vacation. They all joined in. The youngest was only 6 years old. With everyone’s participation, the process of rebuilding became more and more interesting.
The door could be a window, or a cupboard. When we define the function of the architectural parts freely, they could combine with each other freely, and transform accordingly to the needs of the users. It could fit different groups of people.
It is similar to the volunteers, who could either be a teacher, a designer, a geological explorer, or an artist.Whether you stay shortly or over a long period of time, no matter how many people there are, they can adjust themselves.It is also a space for games.When the room is without a door or with doors everywhere, the children will free their nature. They will jump to the front of you by your surprise.
When we raised one side of the foundation, the steps gave us more possibilities. Windows and doors are not barriers anymore. Children would celebrate their nature freely. The children had already loved these steps even before they were finished. They came in through the door and walked out over the steps. They put their feet or their bags on the steps, climbing, jumping and running. They created their own games.
A traditional Chuan-dou styled house is not attached to its foundation. The house is simply placed upon the compacted ground, or supported by pillars with stones padded underneath.This results in the easy displacement during an earthquake and poor humidity resistance.If we raise one end of the foundation up a little bit then the horizontal displacement of the structure could be prevented.A column base of the foundation could prevent the vertical displacement of the frame, and make the house more humidity resistant. These methods are not very different from the traditional ones. Everyone from the village could practice these methods by themselves.When the concept of space breaks the concept of wall, the children were found rapidly adapted to the brand new environment.In this self-creating space, they made all kinds of games according to their curiosity.
At the same time, the light reflected from the sloping wall of the second floor would be diffused when coming through the high windows, so that the classroom could gain more light. In the classroom where there is no gable, the sunlight-plate will borrow light from the classroom next door.This guarantees a good illumination in all the classrooms.
The rest-room for volunteers
We had slept on the ground before. The sleeping bag was our home. But then I thought, when the morning sun spread its beams into the rest-room, wouldn’t it be pleasant if we could actually enjoy the gentle sunshine and the fragrance of the soil from outside the window while lying on the floor with a book in hand?
In order to gain more space for the attic on the third floor, we made an overhanging “Mei Ren Kao”(“the backrest for the beauty”, but don’t take it too literally). A tilting window was placed upon the Mei Ren Kao, which maximizes the utilization of the attic area, while at the same time people could enjoy the scenery of the whole village from there.
我们1 月5 号离开里坪村。大家伤感到掉眼泪。。。。在走的那一刻，里坪村的老乡们居然送我们离开，跟着我们的车子还走了好远。之前一直觉得刁民的他们，哎。。。给我们花生，小米。。。。没有村长，没有领导，来的都是之前闹过，吵过，玩过的村民。半年了，好多的恩恩怨怨，好多的兄弟姐妹，好多的豪言壮语，还有那微薄的理想。突然在我面前画上了一个句号，对于这个结局突然有点无所适从。。。
In fact, I believe we could have done better. For some reasons, we didn’t. But the memory we share, I hope, is good and useful in some way.