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Cloud Community—A Future Asian Community Reform

Yang Zhao

Traditional Asian communities have evolved for thousands of years, and they have the most suitable spatial characteristics and social relationships for Asian residents. Imagine if we can combine the advantages of traditional dwellings and spatial logics, the efficiency of industrial production and assembly, and then integrate with information technology, what kind of residential high-rise can be designed in the future, and what kind of community can be formed?

As we all know, Asians like to live gregariously. One of the underlying reasons is that the early Asian food production methods were mainly through agriculture. However, the development of agriculture needs to rely on collaboration, thus lead to group living. However, in the past two centuries, with the second and third industrial revolutions, Western civilization has greatly influenced the living patterns of Asians — small families live in segregated apartments, and family members also live in separate rooms. Over time, people would rather face their digital screens than talk to people. As a result, traditional Asian residential communities stopped evolving and became history. It's time for us to rethink the wisdom of Asian dwellings, and integrate it with technology to serve the new generations. Whether in the dry north or the humid south, courtyards exist in many traditional dwellings as spaces for family members to share public activities. After sorting out, we find that modern people have a variety of interesting activities that can be shared with their families. So in theory, we need the living room to remain in the center and accommodate more programs.

Although it may be difficult for us to bring the outdoor courtyard into every household, we can still treat the living room as a courtyard and design it to be central oriented, so that it has direct lines of sight with all other rooms in the house. As a fact, the living rooms of many families are designed linearly, that is, the sofa and the TV face each other, which does not promote communication. Therefore, we should also design the furniture in the living room to be central oriented. For example, we can design a stove in the center of the living room and surround it with a platform that can be raised or lowered, so that everyone can sit around the stove talking or eating. To emphasize this direct communication, all other rooms in the house need to have operable windows that can be open directly to the living room. In this way, even if people are in their own rooms, if they need to communicate with the people in the living room, they can just open the windows; if they want to see the people in the living room or just be alone, they can close the windows, with or without louvers. Such a basic setting gives people a feeling of returning to the courtyard dwellings, and also greatly enhances the communication among family members.

As mentioned earlier, the versatility of the living room is particularly important in this design, because it needs to carry all the activities that can be shared, so we should use all the available space to fully explore its spatial potential. For example, we can use the space underneath the stairs to accommodate washing machines, dryers, wardrobes and closets; we can use the space underneath the floor as insulation while providing storage for various items such as fitness equipment or musical instruments; we can set the lifting platform around the stove with multiple pre-set heights, making it suitable for different occasions; finally, we can lift the largest multifunctional screen up or put it down, depending on whether we want to communicate with the outside.

When you observe this section carefully, you will find that many people are doing different things at the same time, and they are enjoying themselves. They can see but they wouldn’t be disturbed by each other. For example, people in the study can see the living room and outdoor scenes while working quietly; people in the kitchen can cook; people in the living room can chat, pet the dog, and water flowers; neighbors can walk down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, just to say hello. The privacy of the space gradually changes from completely open outdoor to relatively private in the study. Such a gradual change makes people feel comfortable, instead of everyone closing the door to do their own things.

The considerations for building energy are as follows. In winter, when the stove is working, it will send a certain amount of heating to the air-conditioning system, so as to save some energy instead of just using the heater; the louvers underneath the roof will open to allow the room to fully absorb the heat of the sun during the day with natural lighting. In summer, the rainwater will be absorbed by the planter at the front yard with sloping roof, which not only has the traditional poetic flavor of "rain curtain", but also allows the fresh air system to pass through the planter to continuously bring in cool air that is lower than the indoor temperature to achieve energy saving; The windows can also be opened under appropriate circumstances to form natural ventilation; the louvers can be closed in the hot summer as sunshades; and the glass roof itself has built-in photovoltaic panels that can collect a certain amount of electricity.

After the birth of a child in Asian families, parents are often more willing to take care of the child for a period of time. Because this house is designed to have many partitions be reassembled, so it can completely satisfy three or even four generations living together. When there is a need for accommodating four generations, the only necessary move is to swap the second bedroom with the study on the second floor, and divide it into two bedrooms for the third generation and their children to live in.

In this design, Information technology should not only bring convenience to people, but also greatly promote communication. For example, a smart kitchen should be able to understand what the family members want to eat every day, and the refrigerator itself should know what to store and purchase, so that food can be delivered to door on time; fitting, changing and online shopping can be done through virtual reality on the multi-functional large screen, without the need to physically try on, and computer should automatically set reminder of washing clothes; people living in the same building or community should have their own Interest groups, and visit neighbors on foot, just like the old days; when the multi-functional large screen is lifted up, it welcomes nature and neighbors; and when it is closed, it can be like a transparent window, an opaque wall, or a large home cinema for the whole family to enjoy family time.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that traditional communities are often inseparable from the street network like a capillary system. Replacing streets with elevators and stairs loses a lot of sense of neighborhood. Therefore, after creating a single-family house that conforms to the spatial logics of traditional dwellings, it is necessary to design a pedestrian street passing through the whole building, so as to truly form a neighborhood. When we mirror, reverse and overlap these single-family houses, we find that the front yards of all households can be connected with one pedestrian path. Because the multi-functional large screen can completely adjust the transparency, whether the living room is open to neighbors depends entirely on occasions. Also, any bedroom wouldn’t be seen by anyone from any angle. It can be said that this system not only ensures privacy, but also forms a close neighborhood relationship over time. Imagine, if we connect such residential high-rises, wouldn’t that be equivalent to connecting several residential streets? In this way, a kind of high-tech residential community that complies with traditional spatial logics and Asian living habits has finally emerged.

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