Architect Designs Aseismatic, Eco-friendly Houses in Rural Areas


Women of China (English) - - FACES IN THE CROWD |人物 - 张禄供图:万丽

Wan Li, a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has traveled a unique career path that has combined exceptional talent and a deep commitment to her profession. During the past decade, she and her teammates have designed dozens of aseismatic, eco-friendly houses in villages in Southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.作为一名建筑专业的博士后,万丽原以为自己会成为一名建筑师,每天坐在建筑设计院里做模型、推敲方案。没想到她却“画风跑偏”,带着草帽跑到农村盖房子去了,而且一干就是10 年。

Wan is a native of Chishui, a city in Southwest China's Guizhou Province. At the end of 2006, she attended a lecture given by Edward Ng, a professor of the School of architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. At that time, Wan was studying in the architecture Master's program at Chongqing University. Wan volunteered to join the team, when Prof. Ng recruited university students (from Hong Kong and China's mainland) who designed and helped build bridges and other facilities in remote, poverty-stricken areas.

When Prof. Ng learned the magnitude-6 earthquake razed large areas of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province on August 30, 2008, he decided to offer a helping hand to the victims. In 2009, Prof. Ng led a team, composed of students of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Chongqing University, to implement the post-earthquake reconstruction project in Ma'anqiao, a village in the prefecture. As Wan went all out to help the villagers build bridges and houses, she became one of Prof. Ng's best assistants.

Prof. Ng, Wan, and several other team members designed the village's activity center as an arc building, so the villagers, most of whom are either Dai or Yi people, could dance in a ring in front of the building.

Despite the harsh conditions in the village, Wan took delight in helping the villagers build houses and bridges. She worked long hours every day, and she wore a straw hat and a pair of cloth shoes as she walked along the village's lanes. "When I saw we turned the drafts into buildings, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment," Wan recalls.

While the team implemented the project in Ma'anqiao, Wan lived in the house of Yang Xingqiong, a villager. Yang felt uneasy that Wan had to live in her shabby home, but Wan considered the house as her second home. "I'll never forget the precious moments when my teammates and I ate grapes and sunflower seeds in Yang's courtyard, and when we looked at the starlit sky on her roof terrace, while we searched for signals on our mobile phones … I have been deeply impressed by the villagers' hospitality. On my birthday, the villagers cooked chicken for me. Before we left the village, Yang gave me a pair of shoe pads, which she had embroidered," Wan says.

In Wan's eyes, the houses (built by the team), though neither gorgeous nor eye-catching, were like a stage, on which people would play the dramas in their lives. Therefore, the houses were the embodiment of harmony of man, architecture and nature.

During the past few years, Ma'anqiao's Post-disaster Reconstruction Project has earned the team many national and international prizes, including the Green Building Award 2010, the UNESCO Asia-pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation (in 2011), the First China Design Exhibition (2012) and the 2016 TERRA Award.

Wan has been pleasantly surprised by the fact the team has won so many prizes for the project. "I have gained a better understanding of the meaning

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