venice architecture biennale 08: ‘paper brick house’ in the chinese pavilion

steps made of paper boxes and tubes leading into the ‘paper brick house’

the theme of the chinese pavilion at this year’s venice architecture biennale was ‘ordinary architecture’ with the
pavilion being divided into two sub-themes – ‘negotiation’ and ‘daily growing’. whether it is with the client, the site,
the budget, the code or any other conditions and constraints, negotiation has become a very important aspect of
an architect’s career and creative process. for architects, negotiation is always strategic and driven by a clear
design agenda involving a sense of social responsibility. the ‘negotiation’ projects in the chinese pavilion speak of
the recent tragedy of the sichuan earthquake and how architects can respond to such extreme circumstances.
while looking at building technologies and the socio-economc system beyond the everyday, architects are also
responsible for negotiating with nature. li xinggang’s project ‘paper brick house’, dealt with this theme.

within a short period of time, the urbanization of china has resulted in a rapid number of architectural and
construction projects putting people, buildings, the environment and the quality control of cities to the test.
the aim of the ‘paper brick house’ was to construct a paper house which is fully functional and allows people to
live, play, meet and continue on with other daily activities. the house is constructed from cardboard boxes which
previously held drawing papers and behave much like ‘bricks’. unused cylindrical shafts which were originally
paper tubes, have been used to as structural support acting as beams, flooring and roofing.

the ‘paper brick house’ pays tribute to the tens of thousands of people who were buried after the sichuan
earthquake as a result of the inferior quality of concrete buildings. it is an alternative response to dealing with
nature and architecture. it is a much softer way of approaching nature as opposed to the typical, heavy,
concrete structures of urban environments. the project’s paper boxes and paper tubes suggest the
production-oriented mode of architectural design in china. it suggests to both chinese and foreign architects that
while rapidly trying to build, the importance of quality should not be forgotten and the development of strategies to
deal with this should always be considered. a raft of paper tubes on gravel-filled woven mesh bags, a typical
shock absorbing structure which corresponds to the tradition of construction in venice – a city floating above
undersea layers of silt. the focus of the house is an internal courtyard which is a chinese tradition, enhancing the
building’s connection to the street and neighboring infrastructure, acting as a public space, providing a resting
place for visitors and others passing by to stop and rest.

interior walls and steps of the ‘paper brick house’
image © designboom

exterior of the ‘paper brick house’
image © designboom

openings which act as doors and windows

paper tubes are used to construct the roof of the house
image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

stairwell constructed of paper tubes leading into the house
image © designboom

upclose of how the paper tubes are held together
image © designboom

a visitor enjoying the courtyard
image © designboom

visitors gathering around the ‘paper brick house’
image © designboom

interior structure of the house

flooring and walls made from paper tubes
image © designboom

project by li xinggang


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