Low-income housing apartment is a general concern in the Chinese modern cities. For Guangzhou and its neighbouring areas, the influx of migrant labors has triggered the rise of real estate price but yet the question that was rarely asked is: how are these cities going to accommodate the people who have given them their wealth? Teaming up with China Vanke, one of the country's leading real estate developers, the Chinese architecture practise URBANUS came up with a creative solution of China’s contemporary collective housing, “The urban Tulou”, which is located on the border between Guangzhou and its neighboring city of Foshan and is targeted for low-income workers. "We were designing a rental apartment building for people whose monthly income is below 1,500 yuan (USD 219) and who would be very reluctant to spend more than 200 yuan to stay at any place," Liu Xiaodu, founder and director of URBANUS said.
Since the beginning of the millennium, the architects of the globe have not only brought their cutting-edge designs to China, but also drew the whole world's attention to what can be built in China. Many domestic architects are opposed to the fact that some well-known foreign architects have taken advantage of China's eagerness to build dazzling modern cityscapes, thus some have became the advocates to call to rediscover the traditional Chinese architecture.
The entire structure is wrapped in a perforated concrete shell punctuated by wooden lattices that shade the balconies, giving each unit a secondary living space. The design translates the visual monotony inherent to an "e-shaped loop" with richly textured inner and outer facade.
In the south China, where there is a much longer summer season and a relatively warm winter, it is necessary to prevent the penetration of the sun by using few windows, smaller courtyard together with thick walls. Those are the technically sophisticated features of the traditional Fujian Tulou.
Like the thick walls of pounded earth that functions as the insulation from summer heat, Urbanus designed extra living spaces by adding balconies to each unit. The balconies with wooden lattices build a protective outer layer to foil direct sunshine in the summer, while the open interior of the structure creates a sense of space and light, as well as provides plenty of natural ventilation.
Description: A pioneering prototype for affordable housing in China.
Design: URBANUS Architecture & Design Inc.
Building status: in use
Construction period: 2008
Location: Nanhai, Guangdong, China
Coordinates: 23°1'40.8'' N, 113°8'46.9'' E
Tags: bricks, low income, community, traditional human settlement, case study
Project ID: 346
Published: 3 April 2013
Last updated: 17 May 2013
(images have individual licenses)