Rural Urban Framework, or RUF, is a research and design practice founded by Joshua Bolchover and John Lin. Based in Hong Kong, the studio’s objective is to “engage in the rural-urban transformation of China through built projects, research, exhibitions and writing”. The duo operate on a not-for-profit basis and mainly work in collaboration with charities, private donors, Chinese government and universities (both are currently teaching at Hong Kong University). Earlier this year, their project House For All Seasons won the AR House 2012 award. We spoke to John Lin to uncover details.
Where are you both originally from, and what brought you to (Greater) China?
I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the US when I was eight. Joshua is from the UK. Before Hong Kong, I was teaching at the Royal Danish Architecture Academy in Denmark for 2 years. I then met my wife and we travelled to Hong Kong on one-way tickets for no particular reason. I eventually ended up teaching at the Faculty of Architecture, Hong Kong University (as did Joshua), and developed an interest in China and the countryside.
Why did you set up RUF?
We were interested in combining projects and research, and we had a vision of a practice that could be very different from conventional forms that exist in Asia today. We wanted to be able to conduct extensive research alongside the process of actual project-making.
How would you define your work?
Our work is an attempt to make contemporary and good architecture within very limited means. We focus on a strong spatial experience coupled with sustainable performance. Currently, all of our work is completed on a non-profit basis, supported by grants and donations, but this allows us to do non-commercial projects that have a different complexity. It also allows us to practice architecture in places that architects don’t usually practice, which results in having to redefine and expand our roles as architects.
How do you view the role of architecture in China today?
I think architecture still has a huge role to play. We need to start defining or collectively create a specific architecture: specific qualities or approaches that arise out of working in the unique conditions of China.
Architecture in China is still searching for its own identity. Many architects are increasingly interested in the rural, not only because it is undergoing great development, but also as a way to get in touch with architectural history that is unique to China.
What do you hope to achieve in 3-5 years’ time?
Since we work in the ‘generic’ areas of China, the hope is to begin to affect how building work is done – not through architecture designed by architects, but through everyday buildings. Will the village house, for example, be able to influence the village just by being there and by being very different from anything else?
Working in China is a political process, so I hope we can continue to receive government trust and support, and collaborate more closely on changing the way things are built in the rural environment. Ultimately, we hope through our work that the many issues facing villages in China can be brought to light and prompt a serious discussion of rural architecture in China.