A Design Research On Contemporary Vernacular Architecture That Can Facilitate The Rural Development In Yunnan, Southwest China [PhD by Design]

  • Chen, B. (Supervisor)
  • Junjie Xi (Co-supervisor)

Activity: SupervisionPhD Supervision


Rural revitalization has become a national development strategy in China since 2018. Previous research indicated that some original vernacular architecture, though often listed as an architectural heritage for conservation, might no longer be capable of accommodating local people's growing and changing needs. Existing studies in this field mainly focused on the historical aspects of vernacular buildings and how lessons drawn from vernacular architecture, such as passive low-energy design strategies and construction materials performance can inform contemporary architectural design. Based on this background, this study takes a research-by-design approach to explore potential design strategies that can meet local users’ needs and conserve rural landscape on the other.

The research aims to identify the main design factors with relevant principles that can guide contemporary vernacular architectural design in Chinese rural areas. The main research objective addresses how contemporary vernacular architecture can be designed to satisfy changing needs in the current Yunnan’s countryside, addressing issues of the built environment, social considerations and economic effects. A theoretical design framework was generated based on the systematic review of selected outstanding contemporary vernacular architectures worldwide. Through the case studies, recommended design strategies for chosen areas were developed from the theoretical design framework. Design experiments were then conducted based on the recommended design strategies. The central part of the research was to analyse the post-design/construction survey of prototypes including questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders. The research outcome is a Design Framework for Contemporary Vernacular Architecture with relevant principles, and two suggested design guidance for two types of vernacular settlements in Yunnan. The information and design strategies developed from the above process can add new knowledge and further update the theoretical design framework, which forms a loop process. The research findings can provide insight into the existing rural architectural practices, serving as a basis for further research on vernacular architecture in China and the relevant practices locally and internationally.
Period1 Sept 201719 Oct 2023
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Vernacular Architecture
  • Design Research
  • Rural China
  • Research by design