During the 2016 Venice Biennale, the world’s most famous architectural exhibition, a one-storey wooden structure named Dou Pavilion by Prof. Zhu Jingxiang of the School of Architecture at CUHK became the spotlight. It is one of the few buildings in the Biennale’s main exhibition that were built on a 1:1 scale to their original models.
Dou Pavilion originates in one of Prof. Zhu’s projects, a kindergarten model built in Gansu Province in China. In 2015, a number of these models, known also as Checkered Playrooms, were assembled by Prof. Zhu’s team in remote villages in Gansu, in collaboration with the Western Sunshine Rural Development Foundation. The playful design makes these playrooms a hit with their users. Children enjoy hanging out in the playrooms even without toys. Different from the traditional classroom design, the ‘boxes’ on the walls and the floor are so kid-friendly that children love to sit or lie in them, and explore their own different ways to occupy these spaces.
Prof. Zhu has been working on pre-fab light-weight constructions for a decade and has developed a series of prototypes, applied in various projects in mainland China and overseas. His playroom is a good example of adopting pre-fab building technology. The components of the structure were made so light and user-friendly that the assembling process created opportunities to involve and bring together different members of the local community. Prof. Zhu suggested that the light-weight building system can also be adapted to the complexity of the Hong Kong landscape. For example, it can be easily installed on top of an existing heavy structure to provide a temporary shelter or an additional function, without breaking or changing the original structure. It is more efficient in cost, safe in construction, and more environment-friendly.