Friday, April 8, 2011

Final Case Study (this trip anyway) New Generation Yaodong Cave Dwellings

I initially thought these houses were made out of concrete block and were not actually my case study at all. I asked if there were other houses nearby made out of earth and not concrete but the residents insisted that these were the only houses like this designed by Xi'an University. After interviewing Professor Wang Jun at Xi'an University, he informed me that the houses are in fact made out of stone with an earth roof but they are clad internally and externally in concrete as the government wanted the houses to look more modern. This is of course means that the earth can't breath and cracking was evident in the ceiling finish. Everybody I interviewed said it was important to them to live in a Yaodong house and they preferred it to an apartment (even the young couple said this). However people who had moved here from more traditional Yaodong (especially the lady in House no.1) said that the house was a lot cooler in Winter than the original and she sometimes wondered if she should move back. The convenience of not living in the hillside was attractive to many. The houses cost 70,000rmb (about £7000 at current exchange rates) to buy in 2001 but would be much more today as China has seen a phenomenal increase in house prices over the last few years. I think these houses are in general a success, particularly from a cultural perspective and a community perspective. Building in terraces represents the original Yaodong communities and seems to keep people together. It is a shame that more could not have been made of the thermal mass properties of the original Yaodong. To increase stability in an earthquake (a worry in the original design) the walls are built of stone but still retaining the original arch formed of earth. However having visited my Marcelo Cortes case study in Santiago I know that it is possible to build houses out of earth that do stand up in an earthquake. Marcelo Cortes's houses are still intact after the February 2010 earthquake in Chile that completely devastated Concepcion and knocked down a highway bridge in Santiago.

House no.1 with the lady who owns the house and her son with Wang Ping Ping and Yan Xiaoying either side

The main room of the house with the stove pipe exiting the building through the window in a traditional design

House no. 2 showing the pipe entering the K'ang bed

House no.2 main room

The tenant of House no. 2, he lives alone

The tenants of House no.3 in the main room, a couple in their fifties and a grandfather

Tenants in House no. 4 a young couple with a young baby, here they had guests

These Yaodong are 2 story, however the lower rooms seem to be mostly rented out while the owner lives in the upper rooms. It is easy to connect two or three Yaodong to form one dwelling by knocking through. The owner therefore lives in three Yaodong at first floor level while he has 3 sets of tenants living below.

Looking into House no.5 from the outside 'balcony space'

Inside House no. 5 still with traditinal stove but without the K'ang bed which the owner misses

The owner of House no.5 and the landlord for houses 2 - 4.

The Yaodong terrace

An board showing the intended scheme for this building site. It is interesting that the traditional Yaodong arch will be incorporated into such a large design

On the bus back to Xi'an, the loess plateau terraces and you can just see a Yaodong community set in the hillside below

If you look closely you can see some cave dwelling here too

Another Yaodong community, you can see further Yaodong terraces being built in front, some out of earth but many newer ones out of concrete

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