Restoration of 12 historic structures helps to preserve the collective memory of a village

Restoration of 12 historic structures helps to preserve the collective memory of a village

25 Jan 2021 News

Dongximen Village in Tai’an Shandong is a historic village that despite its natural beauty has been suffering from depopulation and economic depression. As part of a masterplan that aims to provide a sustainable jump-start for eco-tourism in the region, 12 historical structures have been renovated by gad · line+ studio. The masterplan also includes new housing, a wellness retreat and visitor centre. 

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The site is a typical sloping village with dense vegetation. A small river runs through it and reaches the top of the village, with views to Mount Tai in the distance. When the project started, no villagers were living on the site, leaving only a dozen groups of stone houses, some broken stone walls and a small number of production houses that had been used as pigsties. 

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The traditional stonework of Dongximen Village was undertaken by skilled stone craftsmen of the village. The stonework is thus not only an important feature of the rural landscape but also an important trace of historical texture. Therefore, a deeper understanding of how to work with the stone was a key starting point. 

Early in the design process, the stone houses and walls on the site were carefully inspected, surveyed and mapped with those in good quality flagged for retention and restoration. Walls that could not be retained due to their poor condition were stacked and stored for new building purposes. 

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Even the stonework flagged as being in relatively good condition though posed numerous shortcomings such as poor waterproof performance and poor seismic strength. It was thus impossible to retain the old stone houses in their original state. 

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As a solution, the load-bearing effect of the original stone is removed and transferred to the envelope structure. By doing so, the original load-bearing stone wall is, in essence, free in form and can fully display itself. Block walls are added to the inside of the stone wall. An insulation layer, waterproof layer and protective layer are successively added between the block wall and the rubble stone to improve the thermal performance of the new building and ensure that the new building meets current building standards. 

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New building elements take the form of a new steel frame inserted into the old rubble walls that were stored. Due to poor transport conditions, simple I-beams along with columns made of 200 x 200 I-beams and purlins made of 100 x 148 I-beams, were selected to frame the main body of the new buildings. 

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In addition to ease of purchase and transport to the site, the simple framework system can flexibly adapt the L-shaped and U-shaped layouts of different homesteads and site features. Smaller-scale frames serve as corridors and larger-scale frames serve as rooms. This way of generating individual volumes from a prototypical framework and then growing into a whole is consistent with the formation of traditional settlements. 

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The architects note that the clear and simple structural system not only saves the cost, but also allows the construction personnel to accurately understand the designer's intention, and minimizes the space for making mistakes in the field. 

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