For the Love of Books

The Book House is a whimsical children’s library tucked away in a small minority village in China’s Hunan province

Condition Lab, an architectural research team led by Professor Peter W. Ferretto at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s (CUHK) School of Architecture and the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Guangzhou University (GU) recently opened the Gaobu Book House, a collaborative project two years in the making. Over this period, the universities’ research and design teams visited and lived with the only 2,500 villagers of Gaobu, a Dong ethnic minority village in Hunan Province, to better understand the community and its unique cultural heritage that they hoped to help preserve and restore. The team soon realised that educational facilities such as schools and libraries are scarce in the village, and children are usually sent to study elsewhere in nearby towns. Aiming to promote learning through play, the team conceived an education incubator as a response.  

The team took their design cues from traditional Dong vernacular, where a timber frame is adapted and reconfigured to suit the structure’s purpose. Having observed how stairs are a key architectural element in the Dong’s daily life, as a place for coming together and for children to play, stairs became a central element of the library, where the team hope that the children of Gaobu will develop a love for reading through play and fun.

Inspired by the Book House we’ve compiled our own ‘storybook’, annotated by a poem that Professor Peter W. Ferretto, Associate Professor at CUHK’s School of Architecture, was moved to write after the project’s completion. 

Text / Simone Schultz
Images / Xu Liang Leon, Arthur Wong, Peter Ferretto