RETHINKING THE COLLECTIVE: RENOVATION STRATEGIES FOR THE TULOU
LONGYAN, FUJIAN, CHINA


Date: June 2019 - August 2019


Over a 1000 years ago, large introverted earthen buildings (tulous) of the Hakka culture emerged in Southern China as a traditional form of collective housing in the rural. Extended families built thick earthen walls for collective defence, while maintaining a shared open space in the centre. As the tulous are now surrounded by a new urban context and are not corresponding with contemporary desires of dwelling, many of them are experiencing individual transformations or becoming abandoned. Responding to the changing relationship between individual/collective and rural/urban, these prototypes, built with students from The University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Design Institute, radically rethink the tulou through programmatic, structural and spatial transformations towards a new commons - finding new reasons for living together.

We propose two strategies: the Plug-in on the outside and the Tower on the inside of the tulou.

The Plug-in project rethinks the defensive wall by taking the tulou inside out, opening it to the new surroundings. Individual transformations such as plug-in of toilets already occurred in the tulou that was previously renovated into a children’s school by the Government. This prototype transforms a small window in a new entrance, adding a public reading room to the already functioning school. The funnel staircase plugged into the opening invites people to sit, read and rest in the shadow, while serving as an open amphitheatre for activities in the courtyard.

The Tower project rethinks the public space of the tulou raising up the traditional collective courtyard, connecting each floor to a circular stairway to the sky. The upper corridor of the tulou will become a public reading room; the changing rhythm and dimension of the steps encourage people to sit, and read, drink tea, walk on the bridges or contemplate the view from the upper balcony.