A rammed-earth earthquake-resistant house prototype designed by the One University One Village team of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) was named the World Building of the Year at the 10th World Architecture Festival (WAF) held earlier this month in Berlin. The jury commended the project for reusing salvaged construction materials, being sensitive to its context, and for combining traditional construction methods with new technologies.
In 2014, an earthquake struck Yunnan Province in southwestern China and destroyed approximately 81,000 houses, including the majority of structures in Guangming Village, many of which used rammed-earth construction. As a result, locals lost confidence in traditional building techniques and locally sourced materials, and began to reconstruct houses using brick and concrete. But the use of these imported materials proved expensive and the brick-and-concrete structures demonstrated a poor thermal performance. On top of that, a lack of technical understanding of the materials and trained craftsmanship led to critical safety concerns.
To tackle the issue, the design team at CUHK developed a new rammed-earth construction technique based on scientific research that examined flaws found in structures constructed using local, traditional building methods. The resulting project is a two-story 1,600-square-foot, house prototype developed for the reconstruction efforts in Guangming Village. The team used steel rebars and concrete belts to improve structural stability and used locally sourced and salvaged materials such as clay, sand, cement, and straw for the house's construction. This eliminates the need for the long-distance transportation of materials and significantly decreases overall project costs, as compared to similarly scaled brick-and-concrete structures.
“The architects succeeded in translating ‘four walls and a roof’ into something which, through architectural commitment, becomes a project that is much more profound,” said WAF program director Paul Finch in a press release. “This building is a demonstration that architecture is just as relevant in the poorest of communities as it is in the richest.”
This year's jury panel comprised Ingenhoven Architects principal Christoph Ingenhoven, Intl. Assoc. AIA; founder of Ian Ritchie Architects Ian Ritchie, Hon. FAIA; KieranTimberlake principal James Timberlake, FAIA; OMA partner Ellen van Loon; and co-founder of WOHA Wong Summ.