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PRS Asia PhD Examination - John Lin (School of Architecture and Urban Design - RMIT University)

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VERNACULAR TOOLBOX: Strategies for Modernizing Traditional Houses in Rural China - PhD Examination by John Lin

This PhD research is drawn from the reflection on my work in rural China over the past 17 years, beginning as a partnership (Rural Urban Framework with Joshua Bolchover) and from the onset of this PhD as individual and other collaborative practice work since 2016. The work examines the impact of urbanization and globalization on rural lifestyle and livelihood in China through the detailed study of adaptations made to ancestral dwellings by local builders, followed by design proposals and built prototypes to anticipate the future of the traditional house.  

The research demonstrates various approaches to the contribution architects can make to the evolution of vernacular architecture or an architecture without architects (a reference to previous considerations of the topic). Through a set of diverse projects, the research reveals the equally diverse starting points I have explored for the renovation of traditional building types, resulting in strategies which address the urban, programmatic, constructional, material and detail transformations of vernacular architecture. In turn, the process of designing and building projects reveals some of the unique potentialities (and even contradictions) of the urbanization process in China. As such, it is research operating at two scales: the domestic scale detail, and the urban context, making architectural interventions which learn from and lead to a better understanding of the dynamic, rapidly changing context in which they occur. 

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