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Title: Ecological design values of traditional urban courtyard dwellings : a two phase study at 1st to 10th lanes, Dongsi neighbourhood, Beijing
Authors: Yang, Zhen
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The dramatic development of the urban area of Beijing in the past five decades has imposed a great pressure on the natural, social cultural and economic resources in China's capital. This is in contrast with the traditional city where the traditional courtyard house living environment and its associated life were built in harmony with the local built environment. Shaped by Taoism and Confucianism, Wangcheng (ideal imperial city) and Fenghsui theory and traditional building regulations, each traditional courtyard building exemplified an understanding of the local built context. Could, therefore a detailed study of these traditional urban courtyard living environments create a basis for a potential vernacular/traditional approach of ecological housing development? The study focuses on the area of 1't through to 1 Oth lanes of the Dongsi neighbourhood. Further, 12 different courtyard building types from the neighbourhood were chosen for a two phase case study to explore the ecological (traditional/vernacular approach) values of the traditional courtyard living environment. Firstly, place studies led to the conclusions that traditionally there were four foci of social and cultural activity in the area, these were the Dongsi archways, temples and temple fairs, hutong (lanes) and also the courtyard entrance gates. Secondly, in the urban morphology aspect, the two dimensional figure ground studies of the area have highlighted the hierarchal urban grid and voids (inner yards and courtyards) patterns. At a more detailed level, the plot pattern studies explored the flexible use of a standard 8 mu (5336sqm) plot size, and the building types have been studied through three buildings parameters: the roof type; buildings width (number of bays); and the building height. The original uses of these buildings were mixed and included religious, imperial residential, ordinary residential, commercial, leisure and so on. The mixed use neighbourhood combined with the hierarchal street pattern (with appropriate street proportion) and so on has helped to created lively, pedestrian and liveable streets. In the past the archways to the neighbourhood and main road, the front public yard of temple, the front entrance place of hutong and the courtyard entrance gate created a fluent and continuous urban spatial transition from the very public outside neighbourhood to the intensely private inside of the courtyard buildings. This hierarchy of privacy was continued in the dwellings themselves since the physical location of the buildings exactly matched the social identification of each family member and visitor. For a courtyard unit, the dwelling owner and also the religious/family worship function were always located inside the main building; then the next generation of male family members was located in the left wing buildings, females were located in the right wing buildings, and the visitors and service persons were located at the front buildings. When the residents had higher social/economic status or a large family, the courtyard unit axis could be expanded following either the north-south axis or the west-east axis. Secondary buildings and building elements such as a screen wall, decorative gate, the verandah and so on also helped to provide a smooth spatial transition inside the courtyard buildings, and these secondary buildings/buildings elements gave clear directions to each member of the family and the visitors. Structural elements are also strictly controlled in traditional courtyard housing, for example with the 11 grades doukou (modular) system, this not only provides the basic scale and proportion of buildings, but also, for example, controls building standards. This timber structure system also has great flexibility for structural extension, repair, mass production, prefabrication, potential for transformation and so on. In detailed studies of how the courtyard buildings respond to the local climate we see this structural system also at work. Five microclimate types have been identified according to the location of the courtyard and yard inside a traditional courtyard buildings group at the 1st to 1 Oth lanes of Dongsi neighbourhood in Beijing. Following the classification of the microclimate, the solar shadow index for the winter sun and the aspect ratio for the exposure to the external environment of each type of courtyard/yard was also studied and analyzed to pursue the physical characteristics of the courtyard microclimate. This was essential for the following comprehensive microclimate studies. The sunlight factor, the orientation factor, the building envelope factor, and the landscape factor from the traditional courtyards buildings in Beijing are discussed and analyzed to explore the Qi (energy) control strategies through individual buildings placement and also the buildings elements. The final part of the thesis is a study of the transformation undergone by this area as well as an examination of the shaping forces in 1st through 1 Oth lanes of Dongsi . neighbourhood, This research has applied a systematic and rational research methodology to a traditional Chinese urban neighbourhood. The courtyard living environment studies have generated a comprehensive understanding of a vernacular/traditional building style that evolved over hundreds of years and therefore may have great potential to provide ecological design implications (vernacular/traditional approach) to cope with the current housing crisis in socio-cultural, environmental and economic (architectural structural design aspect) aspects. This type of study I believe to be unique and that it contributes to an understanding of these dwellings and a way of life which is under threat of disappearing.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

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