MLR 03 - 03 - 2010

The Hanging Temple in Northern China is a wooden structure fixed upon the side of a cliff embedded with caves and sticks to keep the structure in place. The ancient Chinese people placed this temple in such a precarious place to fulfill their cultural design principles. Ingeniously, the temple is placed between two large rock forms to block the wind. The rock form across from the temple also blocks sun for all but 2 to 3 hours a day which has enabled the temple to remain in such good shape and most likely allowed for dim lighting for candles and prayer while the temple was still in use. Since Fueng Shui is such an important design principle in Chinese architecture, it is easy to suspect that the temple is also place in this location because of the rock form behind it and the river that once flowed in front of it, which are two important principles in Fueng Shui. Near Xi'an, China there are caves or houses dug from the immensely hard soil. The soil is so hard, there is no structure needed to keep the hole from caving in and the people inside can be sure that it will hold safe for a long time. This cave will protect its residents from sweltering heat in the summer and enable easy heating in the winter with a few coals and a flame. The Chinese people have been using natural materials for centuries. They use what they have around them to make the simplest houses necessary and the houses function more efficiently, I suspect, than apartments made from metal and concrete. The ancient Chinese people paid close attention to their surroundings and selected the sites for their houses and temples in the most efficient places while still maintaining the principles of Fueng Shui that they hold so dear to their culture. Sustainability is about understanding one's surroundings and using them to one's advantage instead of fighting against them. Seeing an opportunity to block wind and unneeded sun, as well as, keep in cool air when itís hot and warm air when its cold. Both examples are made from local materials of wood and soil. Using materials from where the structure is being built is something to strive for in the US and I understand more fully how important that is after seeing both structures and will use these sustainable practices in my future projects to create more sustainable designs.

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