In China’s Henan province, there are several abandoned caves that date back to the early 1900s. Their inhabitants moved to conventional houses on flatter farmland decades ago — and although their relocation signified progress, it left a gaping hole in the area’s unique cultures and traditions.
To revive this lost patrimony, Hong Kong’s Insitu Project led the revitalization of the settlement, reconstructing 19 caves to serve as a community-operated rural training centre. Fourteen of the caves provide guest house dormitories, while the rest serve as courtyards, amenities blocks, a shared kitchen and dining hall and more. The most impressive parts of the project, however, are the firm’s community engagement process and its remarkable use of recycled materials. To bring the concept to life, the firm employed 80 elderly villagers; only basic plans were drawn up, and much of the design was improvised on site. Using construction waste materials such as “eco-bricks” made from glass and plastic bottles, the locals built their new cultural destination while embedding their stories into the walls. In fact, many of the elders had lived in the original cave settlement as children — they brought their own personal memories into the making of its replica.
By working in tandem with local community groups and a material economy expert, the architects embraced a thoughtful, integrated process of uniting the stakeholders through trust. With locals acting as its contributors and designers — and shaping the infrastructure that would come to redefine their village — House of Dreams is worthy of its name. This imaginative project is a stunning feat of placemaking.
Team Kuo Jze Yi and Peter Hasdell (Insitu Project), Liang Jun (Zhoushan Community Group) and Ku Hok Bun (APSS) with Yi Rong Liang, Zhou Hai Shan, Chen Guo Bin, Zhou Bao Liang, Wang Zhen Shan, Wang Zhong Shuan, Wang Jin Ping, Zhou Yin Mu, Wang Dong Biao and Sun Huan Ling (building team); Feng Rui Fen, Wu Huai Zhen, Jing Qiu Feng and Hao Yu Zhi (management); Zhou Xi Chuan, Jing Xiu Fang and Zhou Xi En (community association); Yi Fang, Zhou Zi Yun and Zhoushan Village Party Branch Committee & Zhoushan Village Committee (material donation); Evelyna Liang Yi Hu (interior decoration); Wu Jun Ping, Keita Tajima, Tan Min, Li Dong Min, Aubrey Au and Chelsea Chan (volunteers); The Li & Fung China Social Policy Research Fund and the Chan Cheung Mun Chung Charitable Fund (project funders); Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design and Department of Applied Social Sciences and Shenzhen University’s School of Architecture & Urban Planning (institutional collaborators)
With locals acting as its contributors and designers — and shaping the infrastructure that would come to redefine their village — House of Dreams is worthy of its name.