Tulou Collective Housing by URBANUS

Architect: URBANUS
Location: Nanhai, Guangdong,
Design Period: 2005-2007
Completion: 2008
Site Area: 9,141㎡
Total Floor Area: 13,711㎡
Principal Architect: Liu Xiaodu, Meng Yan
Project Architect: Li Da, Yin Yujun
Team: Huang Zhiyi, Li Hui, Cheng Yun, Huang Xu, Zuo Lei, Ding Yu, Wei Zhijiao, Li jing, Wang Yajuan, Zheng Yan, Shen Yandan | Zhu Jialin (Technical Director)
Client: Shenzhen Vanke Real Estate Co., Ltd.
Collaborators: Guoqun Studio (Interior Design), Archilier Architecture LLC (LDI), Huangyang Design (Logo design)
Photographer: Yang Chaoying

Tulou is a dwelling type unique to the Hakka people. It is a communal residence between the city and the countryside, integrating living, storage, shopping, religion, and public entertainment into one single building entity.

Traditional units in tulou are evenly laid out along its perimeter, like modern slab-style dormitory buildings, but with greater opportunities for social interaction. By introducing a “new tulou” to modern cities and by carefully experimenting with its form and economy, one can transcend the conventional modular dwelling into urban design. Our experiments explored ways to stitch the tulou within the existing urban fabric, which includes green areas, overpasses, expressways, and residual land left over by urbanization.

The cost of residual sites is low due to incentives provided by the government; this is an important factor for the development of affordable housing. The close proximity of each tulou building helps insulate the users from the chaos and noise of the outside environment while creating an intimate and comfortable environment inside.

Integrating the living culture of traditional Hakka tulou buildings with affordable housing is not only an academic issue but also implies a more important yet realistic social phenomenon. The living conditions of impoverished people is now gaining more public attention.

The research of tulou dwelling is characterized by comprehensive analyses ranging from theoretical hypothesis to practical experimentation. The study examined the size, space patterns, and functions of tulou. The new programs also inject new urban elements to the traditional style, while balancing the tension between these two paradigms. As a consequence of such comprehensive research, the tulou project has accumulated layers of experiences in various aspects.

The project provided a platform for an in-depth discussion on the feasibilities and possibilities of contextualizing the variable metamorphoses of traditional dwelling modules with urban reality. It also introduced a series of publications and forums on future hypothetical designs for a “new tulou project”. The logic and design process of the tulou program set up a solid foundation and excellent precedent for translating research-based feasibility studies to design realization.

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