Renovation of Wencun Village

March 3, 2017
Taking inspiration from local materials and vernacular architecture, Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu remade a rural Chinese village in their image.

Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu have been studying villages in China for years, documenting the slow decline of rural towns as the nation has run headlong into a new urbanized era. These villages are the last bastions of a way of life, and a fading traditional architecture. Wang and Lu hope to preserve both, without rebuilding the past: Instead, their Hangzhou-based firm Amateur Architecture Studio is designing new buildings based on traditional forms that aim to rejuvenate these areas—and maybe even lure young people back from cities.

The husband-and-wife team’s first major rural intervention has been realized in Wencun, a village of about 1,800 residences in Zhejiang province. “Half of the village is old buildings and the other half is ugly, huge new ones,” Lu says. When she and Wang started talking with Wencun residents in 2012, the feeling was that newer, and bigger, was better, and the space taken up in a house by a traditional courtyard would be better used for bigger rooms. “Their real desire was to demolish all the old buildings,” Lu says. ...