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A PINCH OF INGENUITY

by Phoebe Liu on Aug 12, 2014 in Architecture
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Part of a three-part project in China, a new library designed by Olivier Ottevaere and John Lin from The University of Hong Kong responds to its earthquake-prone location with a respectful interpretation of a village's needs and setting

In September 2012, an earthquake struck Yunnan province in China. One of the many affected villages was that of Shuanghe, where a majority of homes were destroyed — leaving residents living in tents for up to one year — as well as other structures. A government-led reconstruction effort aimed to rebuild using concrete and brick for houses, and to create a large central plaza for the villagers to enjoy.

But when John Lin, Olivier Ottevaere and their team from The University of Hong Kong conducted their first visit to site, the houses were still incomplete and the plaza was a large empty site. "The University of Hong Kong decided to sponsor the design and implementation of a new library building," says Lin, a winner at the Perspective Awards in 2012 for his 'House For All Seasons' project in Shaanxi, China, which set a new standard for a contemporary interpretation of village dwellings in rural China.

"Located in the new but empty public plaza, [the new library] would serve to activate the community and provide a physical memorial for the event."

And thus was born the idea for The Pinch, both a library and a community centre for the residents of Shuanghe village. The unusual name comes from a response of the overall massing of the project to the site context it sits in, and to the tragic event that instigated the project's demand in the first place.

"Emphasising its location in a remote mountain valley, the design responds visually to the space of the valley, offering stunning views across a dramatic double curved roof," says Ottevaere. "The structure itself rises to a peak, a monument to the earthquake and rebuilding effort."

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