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introduction Edit

The project is a long-term collaboration with the Fairy Water Village to help save and revitalize their nearly 300 years old cultural heritage, i.e. Guanting (the Official Guest Hall and Collective Housing), which is the only communal space housing their ancestral hall. One third of Guanting has collapsed by far. 

The project focuses on building a Communal Center including a new builing where the part collapsed and the rennovation of the existing structure for potential new business to improve their economy status. Based on the survey and the engagement of the community since Nov 2015, we will continuously engage the community to teeth out their need as the programs in the Communal Center.

A local team has been set up to starting up the project, while a local construction team has been organized through the summer workshop with the delegation from The University of Hong Kong. 

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image gallery Edit

the core team Edit

Role of the Community in the Process

Ms. Lianghua Ma, an ordinary school administrator who was born in the village but currently lives in another city in China now, initatied the project and set up a local team to facilitate the execution of the project. She has purchased all the lease inside Guanting in order to streamline the project execution as soon as the financial aid arrives.

The Guanting Committee comprising the head of the village and senior members fully support and will be the decision body for the project.

All the familiers in the villager have participated the survey for specifying their needs. Some attended the workshop for more particular queries.

Julia Ma, 22 years old from the village, recent university graduate, has determined to give up job opportunities in big cities and returned to the village to be the representative of Ms. Ma's team to the outside. She is in charge of all the publicities and might become the executive manager of the community center.


Team Profile

Yan Gao

M.Arch AA School of Architecture

RIBA Chartered Member, ARB UK qualified architect

Assistant Professor at HKU

Principal Architect and Founder, dotA ( and IDEA (


Alexander Furunes

B.Arch AA School of Architecture

Masters, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Founders of WORKSHOP architecture (


Received Support

Tiancibangben (TCBB) as a Registered company for developing agricultural business in the village, has funded the start up of the project including providing accomodations and basis daily support for the project team. Their estimated contribution to the project is about 100,000 CNY.

The Education Ministry of China has funded the summer program of HKU to design and build the mock-up pavilion to test the local construction capability. The total sum is 110,000 CNY.

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what is still needed and why Edit

An earth moving scraper is needed for the purpose of unmanned heavy duty such as moving heavy items, demolishing exisiting structures, excavating work for foundations, and so on. The donor will be credited in all the publicities of the project and print their name onto the project appreciation stone. 

Funding support:

Why need fund?

Although lots of efforts have been made by TCBB that managed to start up growing crops and Chinese herbs, hoping to generate the fund for the project and improve the local residents’ income, it is still far short and no foreseeable financial aid from outside. Prof. Gao took the project for his design studio and summer workshop, generated huge impact to the local community. Visitors, developers, architects, artists, educators, students, governors, etc. are increasingly coming to see Guanting and the village, but no one has left any penny to help the village by now. All the favoring activities are either volunteers or supported by the maginal income out of TCBB, that is the only financial source now.

The local government has recognized the effort and significance by the villagers themselves, appreciating the kind contribution of Prof. Gao’s team, but no intention to put down any fund to the village other than helped build a retaining wall next to Guanting. Due to the embarrassing location, i.e. at the border between two counties, there is no future planning yet to the village, causing the persistent struggling of the lack of tap water infrastructure, hence everyone in the village is still relying on self-digging wells. Even the money to build a water tank supply system on the mountain for the old part of the village hasn’t been resolved since the objective was initiated more than two years ago.

Although Guanting has a long history and has attracted lots of scholars and governers to visit, unfortunately, one third of Guanting has collapsed and is threatened by the deterioration of the timber structure and building materials, no chance for it to become a listed heritage building, therefore no governmental funding could be obtained as confirmed by the local officers in the culture heritage department.

As summery, the village is crying for financial donation to help them extend the life of Guanting, and therefore the community of the Ma Clan can continuing to enjoy the benefit of the legacy from their ancestors and pass on to their coming generations.

The detailed fees breakdown:

Phase 2

Design Fees 

450,000 CNY for All the Design fees including professional Architecture, Engineers and Expenses for a period of 4 months.

Build the New

1,000,000 CNY for building the new part of the Communal Center for a total floor area of 500m2 based on 2000 CNY/M2 including the labors, materials, constructions, MEP and shipment.

Phase 3

Design Fees

450,000 CNY for all the Design fees including professional Architecture, Engineers and Expenses for a period of 4 months.

Repairing the Old 

Totoal 3,040,000 CNY in which

220,000 CNY for structure re-enforcement

1,980,000 CNY for all finishes including Roofing, Walls, Ancient Paving, Flooring, Painting, Timber and Stone Sculpture repairing. 

350,000 CNY for MEP and Water System

300,000 CNY for all windows and doors

140,000 CNY for all labor cost 

50,000 for shipment


Offer Back

The funder will enjoy the following return:

1. Credit in all the publicities

2. To name the Community Center afer funder's name

3. The funder would in principle enjoy a 20% tax-free share out of the profit made from the agriculture business by the local village for a period of 20 years.  


we would like to have an expert in advising how to make good rammed earth wall, which has been used a lot in the traditional buidlings around the village but no one knows how to do it today. We should be able to offer one return flight ticket, accommodations and all meals to the expert on the condition that we get the sum of 1,450,000 for the first two phases of the project. 


Due to the language issues and the short of people who can reach out to the international community, this project needs help in media support in order to make it known and promote the potential collaborations at the international level. 

impact Edit

The process till now has made a huge impact from the village up to Chen Zhou City. The influx of experts, students and interested outsiders have brought new energy to the village. This interest has led to a series of events, bringing activities for the elderly and young children left behind in the village. Ms. Ma and her team has also built a playground, given money to some of the elderlies and made attempts at improving the water scarcity issue. Julia Ma, who growing up in the village decided to return and help Ma right after her graduation. The local builders, also the villagers in their 50s or 60s, felt quite proud of their work in phase 1 and began to receive inquiries from the neighboring villages. There have been a significantly increasing number of visitors to the Fairy Water Village since the project started.

It also attracted unexpected massive media coverage including Hunan TV (one of the most popular regional program channels in China), the Chenzhou (The biggest city after the capital of Hunan Province with population of nearly 5 millions) TV, and the Mango online news (with followers over multi-millions). Chenzhou TV even produced a documentary for the project (refer to the media link below).

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collaborators Fairy Water Village
Project details
Project name: Fairy Water Village Community Center
Description: Revitalise a 300 Year Old Architecture with 2400m2 GFA
Category: meeting place
Design: Yan Gao & Alexander Furunes
Consultants: Alison Zhixin Li, Jiachen Wang, Melanie Ran Miao
Building status: proposal (Buildify submission)
Construction period: 2016-2017
Demolished: The existing old building has been all empty except two families, who have agreed to move to the new developed area of the village during the construction. They will be moved back as our new communal center will include two living units.
Needs: supply, funding support, advice, promotion
Location: Chen Zhou, China
Coordinates: 26°25'47.4'' N, 113°14'26.9'' E
Tags: community, empowerment, vernacular, participation, incremental development
Project ID: 639
Published: 21 September 2016
Last updated: 12 October 2016
(images have individual licenses)
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