28 Dec 2015

How to innovate with what’s available: a low budget, minimal resources and a skilled local workforce

Project: Taiping Bridge Renovation

Location: Guizhou Province, China

Year: 2007

Size: 200 sqm

Budget: 25,000 USD

Team: Rural Urban Framework, Hong Kong and China NGOs, schools of architecture and local villagers

Initiators: Rural Urban Framework (John Lin and Joshua Bolchever)

Just 30 years ago the majority of China was rural.


Since then, rapid industrialization and economic growth has completely restructured the relationship between the rural and the urban and has led to a growing income gap, a decline in agricultural production, and a rural exodus.


Tang-dynasty bridge, Taping Village

6.4 Tang-dynasty bridge

Historically, this bridge was the most important connection between two neighboring villages. It was also the site of the weekly marketplace. However, the construction of a new highway bypassed the bridge.

This caused a shift in focus from the river as the main infrastructure and commercial centre, to 500 meters away along the new highway where dozens of the new shops have opened up to take advantage of the increased car traffic.

In 2005 one part of the bridge collapsed because of flooding, and the reason for the disrepair of the bridge, was due to the dramatic changes in the dynamics of the village.

Involving the locals

Involving the locals


Bridging between traditional and modern techniques.

The initial idea was to fix the masonry bridge using traditional techniques. However after interviewing the villagers, they concluded that there was no longer the expertise necessary to hand-cut stone for the arch. Instead a team of students from an architecture school came up with a plan to precast concrete blocks in a nearby factory and still lay the arch in the traditional manner.

Local craftsmen and materials. Recycling of materials.

Local craftsmen and materials were used to build the bridge scaffolding and stone-blocks from the collapsed arch were recycled into the cladding of the new bridge.

Local businesses. Cost-efficienty


Working with the same local factory they also made these new concrete pavers to program the bridge in different ways. These pavers came in different sizes and had varying sizes of openings. PVC-pipes was a simple and cost-efficient way to create the formwork for the openings.

Introducing green. Organizing a network of collaborations

Rather than hiring contractors, students and villagers worked together to move and position the pavers. The planting was done by sourcing local vegetation directly from the neighboring hillside, and villagers were also eager to donate plants directly from their gardens.



6.1 rufRural Urban Framework

Rural Urban Framework is the architectural design and research office of Joshua Bolchover and John Lin.

A non-for-profit organisation based at the University of Hong Kong.

Collaborates with charities, NGO’s and governments on alternate models and strategies for rural villages to prioritize public space, community programs, and the environment.