Split Lives: Stories from the Underground House

  • The Chinese countryside in transformation (Shaanxi, China). Photo: Rural Urban Framework
  • Old vs New: underground houses surrounded by new apartment blocks (Shaanxi, China). Photo: Rural Urban Framework

“Split Lives: Stories from the Underground House” is the third participation of Rural Urban Framework at the International Architecture Venice Biennale and extends the research and design work undertaken by Joshua Bolchover and John Lin for nearly a decade. As the condition of the rural continues its rapid urbanization, it becomes critical to understand the perdurance of vernacular architecture and the future of the collective in the context of adaptation and transformation that should afford and sustain changes to come.

“Split Lives: Stories from the Underground House” is the third participation of Rural Urban Framework at the International Architecture Venice Biennale and extends the research and design work undertaken by Joshua Bolchover and John Lin for nearly a decade. As the condition of the rural continues its rapid urbanization, it becomes critical to understand the perdurance of vernacular architecture and the future of the collective in the context of adaptation and transformation that should afford and sustain changes to come.

The theme of the 2021 17th Venice Biennale is “How will we live together?” and Rural Urban Framework offers food for thought on rural urbanization through an immersive experience. The life inside the vernacular dug-out house typology from northern China as well as the transforming landscape around it are represented combining different methodologies from architectural design to cinematography to engage a diverse public beyond architects.

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Design Trust Feature Grant

2020
Grantee: Joshua Bolchover, John Lin

About Joshua Bolchover

Joshua Bolchover (UK, 1974) is an Associate Professor at The University of Hong Kong. His current research focuses on the complex urban-rural ecology of cities. He set up Rural Urban Framework with John Lin in 2005 with the remit to create a not-for-profit agency as a platform for design and research. Their projects have been internationally exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2016, the Design Museum London 2016, and The Chicago Biennale 2015. RUF’s work has been awarded the RIBA International Emerging Architect Award 2016 for the Angdong Hospital, The Curry Stone Design Prize 2015, The Ralph Erskine Prize 2014 and has received third place commendations for the Architectural Review’s Healthcare and Schools Award. Joshua’s recent publications include Border Ecologies: Hong Kong’s Mainland Frontier, Birkhauser, 2016, Designing the Rural: A Global Countryside in Flux, Architectural Design 2016, and Rural Urban Framework: Transforming the Chinese Countryside, Birkhauser 2013.

About John Lin

John Lin (Taiwan, 1975) is an architect based in Hong Kong and currently an Associate Professor at The University of Hong Kong. He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the US in 1983. After studying in both the Art and Engineering programs at The Cooper Union in New York City, 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 non-profit 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. He has taught previously at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the 2014 recipient of the Hong Kong University Grants Commission’s Outstanding Teaching Award.

Organisation: Rural Urban Framework

In 2005 the Chinese government announced its plan to urbanize half of the remaining 700 million rural citizens by 2030. At the same time, Joshua Bolchover and John Lin set up Rural Urban Framework (RUF), a research and design collaborative based at The University of Hong Kong. Conducted as a non-profit organization providing design services to charities and NGOs working in China, RUF has built or is currently engaged in various projects in diverse villages throughout China and Mongolia. The projects include schools, community centers, hospitals, village houses, bridges, and incremental planning strategies. As a result of this active engagement, RUF has been able to research the links between social, economic, political processes and the physical transformation of each village. The projects integrate local and traditional construction practices with contemporary technologies.

Joshua Bolchover and John Lin are currently Associate Professors at the University of Hong Kong and have taught and lectured in numerous academic institutions including Columbia University, The Berlage Institute, Pratt Institute, EPFL, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Cambridge University and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.