Building Subjects: Ideas on Housing from Chinese Vernacular Architecture
In China today, residents in standardized housing blocks share the built environment with family clans inhabiting round earthen dwellings, migrants living in fortress-like compounds, and retirees acting out remnant Maoist utopian ideals in urban communes. What lessons may such seemingly anachronistic ways of living, upheld by an unspoken contract between residents and the structures they’ve adapted over time, provide in a future that seems ready to leave them behind? The recently published book, Building Subjects, attempts to answer this question through a surprising observation on architecture itself: that alternate forms of living are already embedded in our everyday structures, and designers can empower these ideas through a simultaneous reductive revealing and a framework for drawing new part-to-part relationships. This talk unpacked such ideas for housing, as well as how they are expressed through the book as a total project: from content development, to organization, design, and realization. Art historian Nancy P. Lin was a respondent for the talk.