Design, in its current and cognizant state, can achieve more than beauty and functionality. At the Pinch library and community center in the Yunnan province’s Shuanghe village in China, it has healed, humbled, and provided hope.
The project was part of a reconstruction effort after earthquakes in
September 2012 killed over 80 people and destroyed thousands of buildings,
including the village's school and nearly every residence. The government sponsored new concrete and brick houses and a large central plaza. But one year
later, residents remained living in tents, and the plaza remained an empty site.
“There was an urgent need to recreate a communal space for the
village,” said the University of Hong Kong’s Olivier Ottevaere, designer of
the project. The plaza required a program to activate it, he explained.
The answer was the Pinch. Conscious design efforts focused on
material, while also envisioning the site as a memorial. “Prior to the
earthquake, the village houses—which stood for many years—were
intelligently built of mud bricks and timber roofs. After, the use of these
local materials were suddenly deemed unsafe,” Ottevaere said. “We
attempted to constructively demonstrate that timber structures could
How the use of local
materials and technologies
stimulated a community
affected by disaster.