STUDIO / DESIGNER
Elspeth Lee & Donn Holohan
Donn Holohan and Elspeth Lee (Lead Designers), Peitian Village Carpenters Jiang, Hejia, Man Ho Kwan, Rosalia Leung, Chang Liu, HKU First Year Architecture Students. Made possible by HKU Faculty of Architecture and the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Centre
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
Sun Room is an in-situ composite woven bamboo shell, which explores the potential of digital design and fabrication techniques to reinvigorate the traditional craft of bamboo weaving.
Bamboo weaving is a sustainable and culturally significant method of construction in China, but due to its complexity and reliance on skilled labour, it is in deep decline.
The Sun Room project sought to apply digital design methodologies to break down the complexity of this age old craft – simultaneously exploring its potential at an architectural scale and its accessibility as an alternative construction methodology for local people.
Over the course of the project, students from the University of Hong Kong and local villagers worked with the last remaining bamboo weaver in Peitian to re-learn, adapt, and evolve this traditional process – resulting in a community space that provides a respite for villagers who work the land in the hot growing season.
How the brief was fulfilled
This project centres on the ancient Chinese village of Peitian. Situated in the mountainous region of Fujian, the village of Peitian is facing a major decline in its traditional crafts and trades, representing a significant loss of intangible cultural heritage.
The project derived from a desire to open up the land surrounding the village through the regeneration of Peitian’s unique Tea House typology. These earth and wood structures, embedded into the landscape, are used as resting spots by farmers working the surrounding land, and also as meeting places, stores or small workshops. Historically, these pavilions were often used by craftsmen to demonstrate their skill or to trial new construction methodologies. Today these structures have, for the most part, been replaced by generic outbuildings in concrete and brick.
Located in a new passion fruit plantation, 2.4 kilometres from the centre of the ancient village, the form and siting of the shelter are carefully considered to maximise ventilation and view and to respect protected viewsheds that are a major feature of the landscape.
Positioned on an outcrop, over a fast moving stream, the bamboo skin of the Sun Room is designed for natural ventilation – channelling cool air through the conical form of the structure in a stack effect, with openings at the base of the bamboo surface taking advantage of local prevailing wind conditions to further increase air movement. In addition, the angle of the roof plane and density of the weave work together to allow diffuse light to filter through to the interior, while sheltering occupants from both strong sunlight and heavy rain.
The irregular form made the pavilion difficult to construct using the traditional weaving techniques so digital software was used to map the length, position and location of each bamboo cane, and CNC machines to cut the material. The overall weaving pattern was developed simultaneously, and adjusted in relationship to the flexibility and dimensional limits of the bamboo. In addition, the site is isolated, with no direct road access, so all building elements had to be designed to be easily transported and installed by hand.