Status Survey on Human Settlement and Architecture——
A Case Study in the County Town of Tianlin
by Hongyi Li
Notes: This summer during July, to learn more about the environment in counties of southern China, I went to Tianlin, a county in the Guangxi province, where I investigated indigenous architecture and human settlement. Interested in architecture and planning to pursue it as a major, I wrote down this research report to prepare for my studies in the future. I am grateful for the cooperation of native dwellers and the statistics bureau staff who had gave me indispensable data, oral information and enthusiastic assistance for my work.
With the advent of an unprecedented fast developing era, lives in China have been ameliorated with a tremendous alteration in environment. Sitting along a river in a huge canyon (see Figure 1), the county town of Tianlin, a mountainous county of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is a prime example of these changes. This report mainly focuses on stating the status quo of local architecture and human settlement in the county town of Tianlin, analyzing its pros and cons, and presenting some of my viewpoints.
1. Rapid Expand of Area
In 1980s, there was one main street built along the river on the north shore in the county town of Tianlin, and it was not until 1990s that another wider street called BaShi Road was constructed, which was the outcome of exploitation of vegetable patches on the south shore for carriage. After the construction of expressway in 2011, a new residential district (see Figure 2) was developed close to an entrance of the expressway, while the newest one (see Figure 3), having been in construction since this year, was located in the eastern side along the river.
The area of the county town now has a much larger figure, compared to that of 1980s, with a population of nearly 30 thousand. Currently, the total area of Tianlin is 5577 square kilometers with a total population of 255381, while the sales area of commercial housing has skyrocketed to 23210 m2. Consequently, more and more high-rise buildings have emerged. In the 1980s in TianLin, a majority of buildings were erected with merely 2 to 5 floors, whereas now numerous newly-built residential buildings contain more than 10 floors.
2. Improvement of dwelling condition and environment
In 1980s, per-capita living space of the county town was smaller than 10m2, whereas with a per-capita living space larger than 30 m2, a majority of dwellers presently live in apartments and townhouses (see Figure 4). Overall, dwelling conditions and per-capita living space in the county town have greatly grown these past years. The government has also furnished those low-income groups with low-renting buildings.
As areas enlarge with the emergence of plenty of newly-built buildings, the achievement of environment renovation and afforesting is also remarkable, especially in green belts along both shores in the county town.
Nowadays, most streets are broad, trim and clean, blanketed by large green areas. Barely from 2011 to 2012 had green areas expanded for 16 thousand m2 in the county town. Cultural squares are also settled, offering people spaces for exercising and community activities. Moreover, there used to be weeds overgrown on both sides of a creek named “Yueli”, which runs through the entire county town, whereas today, high dams are constructed with embossments that incarnate native customs and culture on their flanks (see Figure 5). Sprawling on two coasts above the dams, green belts not only appeal to people’s aesthetic enjoyment, but they also provide them with shade during hot summers, fields to exercise, and places to play chess.
As the county town develops, services greatly advance as well, becoming more humanized and convenient for consumers, especially in the food , catering, retail, hostel, bar and teahouse, and logistics industries.
Another phenomenon is that it was ubiquitous to see local residents burning logs for heating in 1980s, while contemporarily, most people replace woods with coals that may help reduce deforestation.
3. Architecture and Environmental Planning
Built along hills, the county town of Tianlin is among a river valley; nevertheless, some constructions fail to take advantages of certain geographical features. For instance, some people obtain a flat to erect buildings by overturning hills (see Figure 6), an action that both ruins intrinsic terrains and results in horrible collapses. To make use of mountainous features, people may instead construct houses along slopes (see Figure 7). Compared to houses of figure 6, this kind of structure built along slope can not only protect pristine topography, but also functions as cooling and aeration-drying. As a matter of fact, this structure is applied extensively in some tropic and subtropical zones, such as in Southeast Asia. Similarly, with high temperature and moisture, Tianlin should make use of the structure widely used in tropics, to better use its physiognomy.
In the county town of Tianlin, architectural pros are high rate of land utilization and practical housing design, yet shortcomings are overt. In the first place, some designs are machine-made and monotonous, lacking aesthetic appeals. Furthermore, spaces between buildings are too narrow. Not only are those early-built buildings densely assemble, but there are also newly-developed districts used for residence and commerce in the eastern region of county town.
In the west of Tianlin, with delicate designs, some new residential buildings are constructed, resembling typical architectures in Anhui, a province in Southeast China (see Figure 8). As for colors, compared to most old-fashioned architectures there, which were built in colors of red and white most of the time, contemporary buildings in the county town are more colorful and diversiform.
Most orientations of architectures are north-south, while trends of rivers are east-west. In that case, orientations of architectures and trends of streams are opposite, which is not in favor of ventilation. During July when I was there, the weather was muggy and humid; hence better ventilation is indeed needful, especially for a torrid summer. To summarize, orientations of buildings could be redesigned to settle in the same trends with streams for better ventilation.
As for local landscape, lots of trees in the town are transplanted from adjacent villages (see Figure 9), a method that destroys ecosystems of nearby villages. Additionally, it is relatively arduous for those extraneous trees to survive in the county town. Hence, more local species could be planted, for they are easy to survive and spend a relatively low cost.
During this investigation, my overall feelings are that the county town of Tianlin is a rapidly prospering city, and that lives there have become much better than before. Mentioning some defects that I observed, however, I would like to suggest that architectures and landscapes in the county town of Tianlin, to some degree, lack distinctively regional style and cultural traits. Furthermore, arrangements of plants are sort of random, without an integral design. In addition, more energy conservation means could be used for environmental good, such as solar energy.
In the end I want to say that I have enjoyed a meaningful investigation and journey this summer in Tianlin, where I have learned a lot and harvest a great deal, and my experience there has become a precious memory of mine. Again, my sincere thanks go to those native residents and staffs in the local statistical bureau who have helped me a lot!