Newsletter | Sep/Oct 2004

South China Vernacular Architecture

DATE: Tuesday 19 Oct
TIME: 7:00 pm
PLACE: Gatehouse Conference Room, Fort Mason

Mui's talk at our October meeting will focus on the Hakka clan houses in the Fujian province of China. The Hakka clan migrated from central China eastward and settled in the coastal region during the 17th century. The material for this lecture grew out of Mui's extensive research on vernacular architecture in China conducted during the past twenty-five years. But even earlier, as a young person visiting her home village in Southern China, she was fascinated by these non-architect designed structures and by the peacefulness and simplicity of the landscape.

Prior to the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. in the mid-seventies, Mui was continuously able to make visits to China with her family, by virtue of her Hong Kong identity papers. This also gave her access to places other than the large cities, which were still controlled by the central government and which were often off-limits to foreigners until as recently as ten years ago. China was wary of foreigners and the information they were collecting, and under this tight control the only material most foreign scholars could collect on vernacular architecture was on the courtyard houses in Beijing. As a result, for most American students, this was the extent of their information on vernacular architecture in China.

Mui's visits allowed her to see not only the richness of the non-self-conscious vernacular architecture, but also its startling varieties. Her plan was to collect as much information as possible on these structures before the onslaught of modernism, and to share these findings with her many Asian students.

Mui Ho earned both her B.S. and Architectural degrees at Cornell University. Since 1975 she has been a teacher of design at the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research in China began as part of her teaching and course development for her seminar class in Regional Architecture of China.

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