• Renovation Toolbox: A Guided Tour of Innovative Houses by Self-builders in Rural China
    John Lin

John Lin, “The Seasonal House,” 2019. ShangriLa, Yunnan, China. Photo: Rural Urban Framework

This project develops a series of short movies to share stories of vernacular adaptations. It has been over 50 years since Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture Without Architects introduced vernacular or “non-pedigreed” architecture to a wider audience. Revisiting Rudofsky’s premise on vernacular architecture through the lens of contemporary China is to be confronted with abandonment, infrastructural collisions, mutations, adaptations, and contested territories. What we find today is a transitional lifestyle through a hybrid way of living. Stories of structural adaptation of traditional houses often happen alongside social and community transformation. The films act as guided tours of these transformations, narrating the design responses that negotiate between traditional housing forms and the changing conditions of the rural village. Through this work, the hope is to demonstrate the cultural and environmental sustainability of adapting traditional houses, inspiring engagement instead of abandonment.

John Lin is an architect based in Hong Kong and currently an associate professor at The University of Hong Kong (HKU). He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States in 1983. After studying in both the art and engineering programs at The Cooper Union in New York, he received a professional degree in architecture in 2002. His current research investigates the process of rural urbanization in China with a focus on the sustainable development of Chinese villages. Together with Joshua Bolchover he is the director of Rural Urban Framework (RUF), a nonprofit research and design collaboration at HKUrban Lab in The University of Hong Kong dedicated to developing sustainable prototypes for rural areas. The projects integrate local and traditional construction practices with contemporary sustainable technologies. Recent exhibitions include the CCA's The Things Around Us: 51N4E and Rural Urban Framework, 2020; the Venice Biennales of Architecture in 2021, 2018, and 2016; the Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2015; and the Design Museum in London, 2016. He has taught previously at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK) School of Architecture and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He is the 2014 recipient of the Hong Kong University Grants Commission’s Outstanding Teaching Award.