People’s Architecture Office (PAO) along with People’s Industrial Design Office (PIDO) are a young design studio based in Beijing. They aim for innovation, while drawing on cultural and human-centred experiences to develop their designs (People’s Architecture Office 2016). The exposure to both architecture and industrial design offers interesting explorations and interventions into adaptive environments.
PAO’s Pop-Up Habitat developed in 2011 is a modular structure that is formed with reflective photography panels. It responds to the growing popularity of photography in China (People’s Architecture Office 2011). While it has been used to create interesting forms within commercial spaces, and providing an opportunity for play and discovery (Domus 2014), its adaption into a portable tent has offered a contrasting intervention with the traditional architecture in Beijing. PAO’s placement of these structures, whether intentional or not, highlights issues on the maintenance and accessibility of housing, while playing on the growing consumerism in China (Barton et al. 2013).
Further exploration into adaptable and mobile architecture can be seen in PIDO’s Tricycle House and Tricycle Garden, designed in 2012. The small, fully-functional home is a polypropylene construction mounted to a tricycle, in response to the ‘relationship between people and the land they occupy’ (People’s Industrial Design Office 2012). In China, the government owns the land, while people or developers are able to purchase or build property on the land (Watts 2003). PIDO’s response highlights the uncertainty of this relationship while proposing a solution to give people control and security in their homes. The Tricycle House can be paired with the Tricycle Garden, furthering the idea of securing a personal environment.
Developed in 2013–2014, with further developments in 2015, the Courtyard House Plugin by PAO seeks to provide modern living standards in traditional Chinese courtyard houses (People’s Architecture Office 2014). The modular, pre-fabricated panels are easily placed into existing houses, while also providing amenities such as electricity and plumbing. The structure offers an alternative to renovating or rebuilding, promoting either adaptive reuse of the spaces, or allowing residents to remain within communities (People’s Architecture Office 2015). Preserving history and a sense of place is common in architectural practice, however this contrasting intervention highlights the importance of maintaining tradition and community within the urban environment, while promoting the right to access basic housing. With China’s middle class on the rise (Barton et al. 2013), there is still a large percentage of people without access to affordable housing, with people turning to live in underground spaces (NPR 2014).
Access and affordability to housing is a common issue, not just restricted to China. PAO combines playfulness with a human-centred approach to design interesting interventions that highlight the need for housing, and offer a discussion on how this could be realised in the future.
Barton, D., Chen, Y., & Jin, A. 2013, ‘Mapping China’s middle class’, McKinsey & Company, June, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/mapping-chinas-middle-class>.
Domus 2014, ‘Pop-up habitat’, 16 December, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.domusweb.it/en/news/2014/12/16/pop_up_habitat.html>.
NPR 2014, ‘A universe beneath our feet’, NPR, 7 December, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.npr.org/2014/12/07/368760646/a-universe-beneath-our-feet-life-in-beijings-underground>.
People’s Architecture Office 2011, Pop-up habitat, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.peoples-architecture.com/pao/>.
People’s Architecture Office 2014, The courtyard house plugin, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.peoples-architecture.com/pao/>.
People’s Architecture Office 2015, ‘Courtyard House Plugin en Masse’, ArchDaily, 29 October, viewed 6 November 2016, <http://www.archdaily.com/776071/courtyard-house-plugin-en-masse-nil-second-phase-peoples-architecture-office>.
People’s Architecture Office 2016, Profile, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.peoples-architecture.com/pao/>.
People’s Industrial Design Office 2012, Tricycle house and tricycle garden, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.peoples-products.com/pido/>.
Watts, J. 2003, ‘China takes steps to protect private ownership of land’, The Guardian, 23 December, viewed 9 November 2016, <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/dec/23/china.jonathanwatts>.
People’s Architecture Office 2012, Tricycle house and tricycle garden, ArchDaily, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.archdaily.com/312651/tricycle-house-and-tricycle-garden-peoples-architecture-office-pao-peoples-industrial-design-office-pido>.
People’s Architecture Office 2014, Courtyard house plugin, ArchDaily, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.archdaily.com/558175/the-courtyard-house-plugin-people-s-architecture-office>.
People’s Architecture Office 2014, Pop-up habitats, ArchDaily, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.archdaily.com/577605/photography-panels-become-pop-up-habitats-in-this-exhibition-by-people-s-architecture-office>.