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Mrs. Dong's Plugin

People's Architecture Office

Plugins to improve living conditions in Beijing.


The protagonist of the short film is Mrs. Dong. She had been living in her small courtyard house, located in the Dashilar historical district of Beijing, under very poor living conditions. Despite these living conditions, Mrs. Dong preferred to stay there even though she had the opportunity to move to an apartment in better shape. The reason being that the alternative apartment, despite its larger size, is located farther from amenities within the city center and is part of a serial and anonymous housing block. Mrs. Dong needed a solution to bring her courtyard house out of disrepair. The solution proposed by PAO is a small plugin device capable of extending living space and makes the house more comfortable while improving the living conditions.

The Courtyard House Plugin is a house within a house. Thanks to a prefabricated building system, it inserts modern living conditions into dilapidated courtyard houses. Mrs. Dong's Plugin has been the first of over a dozen interventions utilizing this alternative approach to urban renewal - a technique that does not require the demolition of existing structures or relocation of residents. The Plugins are a part of the Dashilar Project which aims at the rejuvenation of a historic district in the center of Beijing.

The simplistic design features proprietary modular panels that snap and lock together. With a single hex wrench, a few people can construct a complete structure in one day, requiring no special skills or training. The result is a well-sealed and insulated house 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. And while vast areas in China are being demolished with many people being relocated, the Courtyard House Plugin offers an alternative to severing social ties in tight-knit communities, and erasing traces of rich and tumultuous local histories. Its simplicity and low cost allows residents to participate in upgrading their city while preserving their heritage.

Authors icon Credits

Mentioned project: Mrs. Dong's Plugin
Project location: Beijing, China
Principal: He Zhe, James Shen, Zang Feng
Project team: Cui Gangjian, Chen Yihuai, Gao Tianxia, Jiang Hao, Lin Tianquan, Liu Qianqian, Sun Liming, Wang Wei, Zhang Minghui, Zhou Ying
Cooperator: Dashilar Platform
Photography: People's Architecture Office

China 2015
Duration: 2'50''