Tiny Landmarks: The Warp in Yunnan, China

The Warp, built in 12 days, is the third structure designed and executed in rural China by first-year architecture students from the University of Hong Kong.
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The Warp, built in 12 days, is the third structure designed and executed in rural China by first-year architecture students from the University of Hong Kong.
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A multipurpose gathering place, this undulating structure by Olivier Ottevaere and John Lin helps a post-earthquake town get back on its feet. It’s part of Tiny Landmarks, our look at six projects modest in size and budget but immeasurable in impact. 

Resembling a cresting wave, the Warp delivers a trifecta of uses to the people of Ludian: a stepped roadside market, an undulating lookout point and a shaded respite. In this mostly Muslim town in Yunnan, China, which has been rocked by earthquakes in recent years, the 130-square-metre structure helps to buttress community togetherness while establishing an architecturally striking landmark.

Constructed from wooden planks, its sine-curved shape mimics the mountainous landscape as it swoops down to almost meet the ground at its centre, then rises up again on either side. On one end, it soars like a sail, inviting locals to find shade beneath its trussed underside. Meanwhile, the concrete risers at its base provide an area for selling fresh produce, potentially animating it with commercial activity.

The project was funded by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund and a student project grant, after the region was hit by a major earthquake in September 2012, leaving many residents with nowhere to live, except tents, for almost a year. Architects Olivier Ottevaere and John Lin designed the Warp, along with their first-year architecture students at the University of Hong Kong.

It marks the third and final instalment in their series of Yunnan projects, which pack a multiplicity of functions into small, low-cost timber structures. One of the first to go up, the Pinch, houses a library and a community centre, while the Sweep acts as both observation deck and kids’ play area. “Collectively,” the architects say, “the series explores the activities of buying and selling, bridging, resting, viewing, eating, reading and playing.” For a town that has lost so much, these buildings restore core social activities that prop up community life.

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