Situated on the outskirts of Peitian Village, Fujian Province, China and designed to be constructed without the use of mechanical fasteners, “Wind and Rain Bridge” is a reciprocal interlocking timber structure which draws on the long tradition of wooden buildings native to the region. Each of the bridges’265 elements is unique and integral, assembled under the supervision of traditional carpenters, who number some of the few remaining exponents of their craft.
Peitian is one of a number of isolated rural villages distributed throughout the mountainous regions of southern China, which, following severe flooding in early 2014 saw much of the infrastructure linking its disparate communities destroyed. This project aims to reconnect Peitian village to that historic network of routes that link these isolated settlements.
The bridge creates a community space, located in the heart of the village’s fertile farmland, where local people can socialize and exchange. Opening outward towards the village, the bridge negotiates the variable terrain and provides a place of respite from Peitian’s changeable climate.
This project seeks to offer an alternative mode of community redevelopment that references local crafts and traditions, and utilizes sustainable materials and methods, to create both social and physical infrastructure critical to this process is the integration of digital design methodologies, which allow for the planning and testing of complex assemblies. The high level of training and labour associated with these assemblies has been a barrier to the continued viability of complex, long-span, timber structures in China and other developing and transitioning economies.
70 students from the University of Hong Kong, with the guidance of a local carpenter, assembled the bridge from 265 wooden components.
This project draws its inspiration from the traditional Chinese covered bridge, which are highly elaborate structures, often including temples, markets, and performance spaces. The Wind and Rain Bridge seeks to update and revive this unique typology. Through a shift in level, the deep steps prompt occupants to move through the space in a measured way, and provides ample opportunity to sit and rest. As the bridge climbs, it narrows – leading outward toward the mountain paths. Central to this project is the idea of reciprocity, the bridge uses relatively short elements to build a structure with a span longer than its’ individual parts – where each beam is supported, and supports other beams in the structure. This structural system is generated to fulfill a spatial and social agenda, yet simultaneously the way in which the project is constructed underpins and informs these attitudes.
The bridge is constructed from only one material – locally sourced, sustainable timber. It is designed to achieve its’ relatively long span without the use of metal brackets, supports or mechanical fixings. This severe restriction, inspired by the architecture of Peitian, led us to find innovative ways of overcoming the sectional and structural limitations of wood. This ultimately led to the design of a complex jointing system, which harnesses timbers’ hydroscopic qualities. Once the bridge is assembled, the expansion of the timber elements in reaction to its environment further tightens each of the dovetailed joints which make up its superstructure.
The benefits of this approach were manifold – it allowed us to source and fabricate every element of the project within the village, overcoming the need for the transport of energy intensive elements to site. Aside from offering a sustainable construction methodology, working in this way, with the involvement of the community, allowed us to activate local trades and crafts, which are slowly being eroded as prefabricated and centralised construction systems in concrete and steel become the standard.
Client: The residents of Peitian Village
Tutor: Donn Holohan
Other Facilitators: Jiang Hejia (Team Leader), Man Ho Kwan, Rosalia Leung, Chang Liu, Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund
Students: Introduction to Architectural Design Students at Hong Kong University
Research Question: Giving students the opportunity to investigate timber design and construction in a real world scenario. This project seeks to offer an alternative mode of community redevelopment that references local crafts and traditions, and utilizes sustainable materials and methods, to create both social and physical infrastructure.