People’s Architecture Office
Courtyard House Plugin
Jury motivation: An ingenious system that not only solves the demographic issues but also inspires the whole new community life.
The award-winning Courtyard House Plugin is essentially a house within a house. It is a prefabricated building system for inserting modern living conditions into dilapidated courtyard houses. This alternative approach to urban renewal does not require tearing down existing structures or relocating residents. Currently, over a dozen Courtyard House Plugins have been built with more under construction. It is part of Dashilar Project, an initiative aimed at rejuvenating an historic district in the center of Beijing.
People’s Architecture Office has developed a proprietary prefabricated panel that can snap and lock together with a single hex wrench. The panels are light, easy to handle, and inexpensive to ship. A few people can construct a complete Plugin structure in one day, requiring no special skills or training. The result is a well-sealed and insulated interior that reduces energy use by one third. ‘Plugging in’ is half the cost of renovating and about a fifth of the cost of building a new courtyard house.
In China vast areas are still being torn down, forcing people from their homes, severing social ties in tight-knit communities, and erasing traces of a rich and tumultuous history. The Courtyard House Plugin offers an alternative option. Its simplicity and low cost give local residents access to participate in the process of upgrading their city and preserving their heritage.