The Breathing Village

Hangzhou polluted with heavy and thick smog contains PM2.5 particles over 200 days a year. The project metaphorically functions as a litmus paper exposing, filtering and sequestering pollution from the congested city of Hangzhou. The recent host of the annual G20 summit, the Chinese government, used drastic measures to promote Hangzhou’s green agenda for two days. The measure includes the evacuation of a quarter of the city’s population. My objective is to summarise a physical manifestation of a low-carbon; a livable village that regular hosts G20 events on improving the urban and social fabric of China.

The modular roof system utilises a range of traditional Chinese forms of constructions and new interventions that purify, expose and neutralise dust pollutants seep into the developing city center. The envelope acts as a visual barometer of pollution of Hangzhou’s developments and revitalises the border to provide a point of cohesion between different demographics of the city. Floating devices reveal intimacy during communal living, but during diplomatic meetings would be hidden to give space for security and protective measures. Special events where the two demographics overlap with banquets along the West Lake, where residents can interact and integrate their daily living on festive occasions.

Located on a peninsula that borders between West Lake and the skyscraper city home to Alibaba, combines high-tech modular diaphragm roof system on a vernacular construction, serving as the protagonist of the scheme. The flexible, multilevel guesthouse core accommodates the G20 conferences for diplomats and unfolds as an adaptive, high-density communal living space for the villagers.

A series of floating plug-ins caters for the villager phase, providing additional amenities such as launderettes, entertainment kiosks, and an interactive playground. It also provides heightened security and insulation from the public during the diplomats’ stay. To raise further environmental awareness on floating banquets and traditional Hangzhou cuisine night markets are hosted for the political VIP in coordination with the fish market, where locals can interact and integrate their daily routines with the politicians.

I looked into utilizing Titanium Dioxide coated panels inspired by the Prosolve370e modules built onto a 2013 refurbished Manuel Gea González Hospital, and developed a modular ‘gill’ that acts as a filter to neutralise incoming pollutants. A second version of the gill inspired by using charged Aluminium mesh to attract dust particles, raising awareness to villagers and officials alike. By analyzing wind patterns and sunlight issues with the site, I arranged a combination of eastward facing ‘gills’ cladded along the breathing, cascading bamboo roof. This aims to synthesise tradition modernity, in light of a sustainable future.

Treating the building with a vernacular touch, the multi-purpose guesthouses are built with glulam timber and cladded with reinforced ‘Wapan’, a Zhejiang region building technique re-using broken terracotta/brick fragments. Timber and Tiles sourced from local wood suppliers, and the bamboo is sourced from the Longjing Tea Plantations nearby, erasing the transportation cost and materials from overseas. Proofing them with the waterproof/weather-proof coating is ordinary, as this type of material palette has been used by Wang Shu in the surrounding provincial area, heightening the feasibility of the structure.

The site was interpreted from an existing empty peninsula used as a garden overlooking West Lake. The justification to these constraints was the construction of five-star hotels around West Lake, so this building aims to act as a village-community in harmonising a widening gap of unaffordability in Hangzhou. The primary design feature of having a guesthouse with adaptive, folding sliding doors creates a space that can be easily interchanged and occupied by both parties.

Given the national importance of creating environmentally healing possibilities, the Chinese Government highly valued the building’s instrumental support in utilising natural materials with innovative technologies. Creating a unique setting to show China’s strength in utilising old vividly and new materials would be an excellent synthesis to popularise this form of building in other cities.

This ambitious project looks into harmonising two completely different social demographics, and serves to question the social responsibility of architecture within environmental thinking. The crucial point is to consider the rapid development of Hangzhou’s technology-driven hubs, as the traditional aspects should too further their crafts while creating better living spaces in the city.

Creating a building that unfolds with two programmatic functions hopes to bridge the culture gap, and promote the traditional ‘communal’ living prevalent in villages with the international guests. The proposal does not prophesy this building as a solution to air pollution, rather the act of ‘spreading awareness.’ The building’s visual or experiential effect hopes to trigger experimentation and discussion to combine a combination of old and new technologies.

Student Name: Justin Chow
Project Name: The Breathing Village
Location: Hangzhou, China
Expected Completion: June 2017
Building Height: 4 storeys
Number of Rooms/Units: 24 VIP Guestrooms, adapted into 48 Villager Homes
Client/Owner/Developer: Chinese Government

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