Design Trust Seed Grant

Living Museum

As a direct result of China’s rapid industrial development, many traditional crafts and processes are under threat – this represents a potentially significant loss of heritage. China’s vernacular architecture displays a host of regional adaptations and sophisticated design elements, which have evolved over thousands of years. This project attempts to find a means of preserving this knowledge, while presenting a direct opportunity for future practitioners of architecture to be part of the continuing viability of these crafts through direct interaction with craftsmen on the construction of real architecture. Simultaneously, it proposes a model of conservation and construction, whereby vernacular crafts are updated and revived through their reinterpretation and integration with modern technologies.

Volunteer students of architecture will travel to the ancient village of Peitian, Fujian province to collaborate on the construction of a “Living Museum ”. This project focuses on creating a place for Peitians disappearing intangible cultural heritage, and centers on the continuing decline of its craftsmen – whose skills and traditions are in danger of dissolution.

Initially, through a series of material workshops and site visits with carpenters and other craftspeople, students will experience, examine and document the tools and processes associated with Peitian’s vernacular architecture – contributing to a growing archive of local material practices. Students will then integrate these practices with digital tools and fabrication technologies and will work together on the design and construction of the museum. In the final phase, and in collaboration with the wider community and teachers, students will become part of a process of creating a programme for the new community space.

About Donn Holohan

Donn Holohan is an architect, designer and maker based in Hong Kong and Ireland. A founding partner of superposition, and assistant lecturer at HKU, his work is primarily based on the potentials of emerging technology – both as they relate to the practice of architecture, and to the question of social and environmental sustainability.

Over the past number of years, he has worked in rural China with local craftspeople, governments and NGOs on projects that vary in scale from products to small-scale experimental structures and architecture, including Sun Room and The Wind and Rain Bridge – a reciprocal interlocking timber structure which draws on the long tradition of wooden buildings native to the region, designed to be constructed without the use of mechanical fasteners.

He is currently working with local government and community groups in rural Fujian, China, to develop a living museum of craft within the ancient village centre.