Xianshui, China 2016
Designing a small structure with the community of Xuianshui to understand the larger impact of building a community center.
Xianshui-cun is a small village of 2000 people in Hunan Province, China. As many of the younger generation of the village have moved to the cities for work, the grandparents and children have been left behind. In an attempt to encourage them to come back to the village, the Ma family Clan of Xianshui-cun aims to save and revitalize their nearly 300-year old communal building and ancestral hall, a symbol of their village identity. The building is in bad shape, and they fear that if it is lost, their family members will have no reason to come back to the village. In this context, a plan was made to renovate the building and to build a new community center that will replace a part of the old building which has collapsed. To prepare for this project, a smaller intervention was made in collaboration with the villagers and students from Hong Kong University. Mapping workshops were held to engage different members of the community to reflect and express what they believe is needed to improve the situation in the village. In addition to renovating the old communal house, the community identified needs for improved roads and water distributing systems. Building a smaller structure by reusing debris of collapsed buildings enabled a discussion with villagers engaged in construction work to exchange knowledge and experience, identifying materials and techniques that can be used for the future community center. The activity was recognized by the local municipality which has now begun improvement works based on the issues identified in the mapping process.