This pioneering prototype for affordable housing in China is inspired by the traditional tulou, the multi-family, fortress-like earth house found in the rural areas of Fujian province. The urban Tolou consists of an outer circular block with a rectangular box within that is connected to the outer ring by bridges and a courtyard. Both the circular and rectangular blocks contain small apartment units; the spaces in between are for circulation and community use. The lower floors contain shops and other community facilities. Rents are low and apartments are not available to car owners, adding to the homogeneity of the community, many of whom are migrant workers. The self-contained circular form stands in sharp contrast to the typical high-rise blocks around it. The entire structure is wrapped in a concrete screen with wooden inserts that shade the balconies, giving each unit a secondary living space. The position of the apartments also allows for good light and ventilation. Resulting from extensive research into the original earth houses as well as the social dynamics of current urbanisation trends in China, the Tulou Collective Housing is a unique experiment in low-income housing and the transformation of ancient heritage to suit contemporary living environments.
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