26 November 2020
27 November 2017
CUHK Rural Architectural Project Wins Top International Award
First Hong Kong Team To Receive ‘the Oscar of Architecture’

An anti-seismic earth house built by the One University One Village (1U1V) team at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has been awarded the World Building of the Year 2017 at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) — ‘the Oscars of architecture’. This is the first time an architecture team in Hong Kong has won this prestigious award. The prototype house constructed for an aged couple in Yunnan demonstrates how traditional methods can be improved to provide villagers safe, affordable, comfortable, and sustainable homes. It also shows that architecture can be enjoyed by the poor as much as the rich.

The house in Guangming Village claimed the title of World Building of the Year, and was described as ‘extraordinary’ by WAF judges for addressing profound problems ordinary people face. It was built in response to the Ludian earthquake in 2014, which left 617 people dead and thousands homeless. Employing an innovative rammed-earth construction technique, the prototype house has not only provided a safe and comfortable home for the aged couple, but also rebuilt the confidence of the villagers in traditional rammed-earth buildings.

Prof. Joseph SUNG, Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK congratulated the team on winning the top award at WAF. He said, ‘The WAF judges mentioned that this project excels in addressing profound problems facing ordinary people. In fact, one of the important goals of academic research is to contribute knowledge back to the community and help the needy. It is also in accordance with our education philosophy of advocating the humanistic spirit. The 1U1V programme covers a wide range of services including housing construction and building bridges, as well as public health promotion. I look forward to hearing more good news from the team on their meaningful work, in the future.’

The project was led by Prof. Edward NG, Yao Ling Sun Professor of Architecture, Dr. Li WAN, and PhD student Xin’an CHI at the School of Architecture, CUHK, and carried out in collaboration with Dr. Emily SO of the University of Cambridge and Prof. Wenfeng BAI of the Kunming University of Science and Technology. The team conducted a research on the shortfalls of traditional rammed-earth buildings to formulate a new rammed-earth system.  After repeated tests, they completed a 148mtwo-storey, new, rammed-earth house in four months, using local material and with the help of local workers.  The construction cost of the new earth house was 600 RMB/m2, 40% less than the cost of brick-concrete buildings in the village (1,000-1,500 RMB/m2).  The house is affordable and sturdy, as it stood undamaged when two subsequent earthquakes hit.

WAF judges applauded the re-use of traditional material and construction methods but with the addition of new technology – combining ancient wisdom with modern know-how. They were also impressed by the iterative research process which could be re-applied to anywhere in the world affected by seismic problems and low levels of wealth. 

‘This building is a demonstration that architecture is just as relevant in the poorest of communities as it is in the richest,’ said Mr. Paul Finch, WAF Programme Director.

The 2017 World Architecture Festival was hosted in Berlin, Germany.  It received 924 entries from 68 countries around the world.  The submitted projects ranged from family homes to schools, stations, museums, large infrastructure and landscape projects.  Of the entries, 434 were shortlisted and nominated to present at the Arena in Berlin.  The three-day festival attracted over 2,000 architects from across the globe. CUHK's anti-seismic earth house won the Old & New category Award to become one of the 18 finalists.  On the last day of the festival, the grand-jury (Super Jury) awarded the 1U1V team the WAF World Building of the Year Award.  

‘The award is an important recognition of the work of the 1U1V team. A new model of village development has emerged on the mainland in recent years. At the same time, the relief of poverty and sustainable development are listed as important goals in the central government’s 13th Five-Year Plan. In the project, we taught the villagers the methods and skills, so they would be able to stand on their own feet. The construction of the house is supported by scientific research. It is not only safe, comfortable and affordable, but also environmental friendly with a low-carbon footprint. It sets a good example for future village development,’ said Prof. Ng.

The project has also previously won the Architectural Review (AR) House Awards 2017 for its deep understanding of local society and cost-effective construction template for the community.

About One University One Village (IUIV)

The One University One Village Rural Sustainable Development Assistance Programme (www.1U1V.org) was prepared and launched by Prof. Edward NG Yan Yung and Dr Li WAN of the School of Architecture at CUHK in 2014.  Its idea is to gather professional knowledge and manpower from one higher institution to help improve the environment and livelihood of one village strategically, systemically and sustainably. 

Each 1U1V project is supervised by a doctoral student at the CUHK School of Architecture.  The results of the project form part of the thesis, while the student’s academic research is put into practice.  In the process, talents of different professional fields from overseas and the mainland work together to improve lives in villages.  They help the needy, promote education, protect the environment, and support cultural, social and economic development. 

The first 1U1V project was in Qiunatung Village, Nujiang Prefecture, Yunnan, in which Peking University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University were invited to conduct a public health survey.  Another programme to promote early childhood development was launched there with Chung Chi College of CUHK and the Education University of Hong Kong.  Last year, the team built the first modern bamboo bridge—Yi Xin Qiao—in the rural mainland to eliminate the difficulties and danger impoverished villagers face when they cross the river.

(From left) Prof. Kristof CROLLA, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, CUHK; Mr. CHAN Hung Ming, Chan Cheung Mun Chung Charitable Fund Ltd.; Prof. Edward NG, Yao Ling Sun Professor of Architecture; School of Architecture, CUHK; Dr. WAN Li, 1U1V Project Convenor, School of Architecture, CUHK; Prof. Thomas CHUNG, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, CUHK; and Mr. CHI Xin'an, PhD student, School of Architecture, CUHK

CUHK Team wins the award of World Architecture Festival Building of the Year 2017. (From left) Mr. Xinan CHI, Prof. Edward NG and Dr. Li WAN.

Mr. James TIMBERLAKE, super jury of the WAF (left) presents the award of the 'New & Old' category to Prof. Edward NG.

The old couple lost their home in the Ludian earthquake in 2014.

The CUHK team builds a prototype house for an aged couple with innovative rammed-earth building system.

The semi-outdoor atrium provides comfortable and artistic living environment for the aged couple.

Prof. Joseph SUNG, Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK (3rd left) congratulates the 1U1V team on winning the prestigious award.