A House For All Seasons / John Lin

A House For All Seasons / John Lin

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Shijia Village is located in Shaanxi province, in northwestern China.


Development in rural areas such as Shijia, typically abandons traditional styles in favor of more generic housing types. This is partly the result of the area’s gradual shift away from economic self-reliance: as labor tends to migrate toward more urbanized centers, traditional collective self-construction is increasingly rendered unviable. As a result, outside labor and materials have become the driving force in defining the rural housing scene. Funded by the Luke Him Sau Charitable Trust with support from the Shaanxi Women’s Federation and The University of Hong Kong, this project looks at the idea of the village house vernacular and proposes a contemporary prototype. By combining ideas from other regions of China as well as traditional and innovative technologies, the design is a model for the modern Chinese mud brick courtyard house.

The Design

All the houses in the region around Shijia are constructed of mud brick and occupy land parcels of 10 meters by 30 meters. The design promotes a sustainable alternative within this framework by integrating rammed earth, biogas, rainwater storage, and reed bed cleansing systems. Understanding the courtyard as an important component of the home, our design includes four distinct courtyards to be the primary elements. The courtyards are inserted throughout the house to relate to the main functional rooms of the kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedrooms. As part of an increased self-sufficiency objective, the building’s multifunctional roof provides seating and surfaces for daily necessities and allows for rainwater collection. Meanwhile, the combination of both mud and brick results in a safer hybrid building material. The final result is a house that integrates traditional technologies into contemporary rural livelihood.



Serving also as a center for women’s handicraft, the Shijia House bridges the individual and collective identity of the village. Construction of the house has initiated a new phase for the local economy, developing a new cooperative business in traditional straw weaving. Overall, the project represents an architectural attempt to consciously evolve rural house dynamics in China.


Extra Info

Luke Him Sau Charitable Trust

Shaanxi Province Women’s Federation
Shaanxi Volunteers Association of Red Phoenix Project
Linwei District Women’s Federation
Qiaonan Town Government
Shijia Village Committee
The University of Hong Kong

Project manager:
Kwan Kwok Ying

Project team:
Huang Zhiyun, Maggie K Y Ma, Jane Zhang, Qian Kun, Katja Lam, Li Bin

Commission Date:
April 2009

Completion Date:
March 2012


53,400 USD (325,000 RMB)

Unit Cost:
140 USD/m2 (855 RMB/ m2)