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(Team: Ana Luisa Rolim with students Hugo Santiago, Larissa Falavigna, and Maria Julia Jaborandy)

HONORABLE MENTION Bee Breeders Global Housing Crisis international Modern Collective Living Challenge

Tri-plus 三+ symbolizes the proposal’s core idea: a flexible productive system of enclosed and open, private and public, green and habitable spaces closely related to the rational of the number three. From the positivity of giving birth to the three jewels of Buddhism, the number is largely welcomed in Chinese culture.


The usefulness of what is not

The Chinese value open spaces for living, work and leisure, which mirrors the ancient Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching: “We turn clay to make a vessel, but it’s on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.”  The proposal’s rational is based on the significance of voids, materializing both the vessel’s metaphor and the logic of the number three in the shape of a 3.30 x 3.30m void system, framed with a slim post-and beam structure. The grid works as a framing for collective spaces that strength the community lifestyle, including greenhouses, vegetable gardens, pig and chicken pens, as well as, planting and playground areas. The open space is also at housing unit scale, a 3-bay layout punched through at the center with a courtyard that conforms an U-shape typology, quite common throughout China.


The four pillars of Chinese architecture

The Tri-plus system is anchored in the main pillars of the traditional Chinese architecture: Axiality, symmetry, hierarchy and enclosure.



In many ancient Asian neighborhoods narrow streets called hutong create an axis-oriented circulation system along which low buildings were arranged. Tri-plus borrows from this logic as a system of paths varying in length according to their level of integration: The longer continuous lines are in the periphery and the shorter ones situated towards its center. As for the house typology, the basic version has a ring-like circulation system around the courtyard. Expanded versions would result in an axial growth by adding modules towards the former entry, always considering one of the added spaces to be a courtyard module.



As in most traditional Chinese houses, the residential unit is symmetrical, with a central axis conformed by the courtyard and the washing//bathroom areas. Sliding panels that enclose the patio break this symmetry, reflecting the dynamics of domestic life. In contrast the overall setting is asymmetrical, allowing for interesting perspectives and route options.



Hierarchy is present in most traditional houses across China. The proposed layout is polarized in two private components placed opposite each other: parents and children. Private spaces for hygiene purposes are located in between these two poles (wash/dry clothes and bathroom). A perforated brick partition allows for light and wind penetration. Axially situated from the two poles, the kitchen and dining areas are placed opposite the living.



Both at the urban setting and the housing unit scales, the design promotes enclosure by setting clear physical limits. The ground level chessboard-like layout of positive constructed spaces (houses and support structures) and open spaces (planting areas and animal pens) allows for well defined perspectives where built volumes frame and enclose multiple eye-level views, enriching the experience of walking along the various paths offering different route possibilities. Each housing unit has a quadrangular courtyard and one access point through it. This traditional Chinese typology facilitates the use of natural light and wind control, allowing for exterior façades with more or less windows - Northern areas would have less rear openings than Southern ones.


System flexibility

The system offers different settings. We test a two-story configuration, with (16) 70m2 residential units on ground level and (9) on the 1st floor, occupying a 98.20m x 49.20m perimeter that adds up to 4,831 m2 total. The design allows for expansion of the 1st floor units (from 70m2 to 106m2) without altering the green space coverage. Sustainable soil permeability is assured by uncovered green spaces computing a 25% rate, as well as, vegetable gardens, pig and chicken pens, greenhouses and productive planters to help minimize the purchase of outside goods by the dwellers.



Because at least one open space is an important element of any Chinese house - even when the space is merely outdoors in front of a rectangular space - the proposal provides both a private courtyard for each residential unit, besides various planting areas throughout. 

An interview with the author is available on the Bee Breeders web page.

The project has also been featured on Archdaily

Ground floor with collective productive spaces and residential courtyard typology

Tri-plus' rational

Tri-plus' key strategies

Diagram of public and private spaces on ground floor

Ground floor plan

Diagram of public and private spaces on 1st floor

First floor plan

Overall isometric view

Tri-plus inserted in a rural site

The typical residential unit reflects the traditional Chinese home: parents' and children's rooms sit in opposite ends, with laundry + bathroom in between, and kitchen + dining across from the living area.

Conceptual illustration of a typical residential unit

Model of typical residential unit

Section through typical residential unit

Sustainability diagram

As in the Chinese domestic tradition, the courtyard is the centerpiece of the house.

Tri-plus' perspective section

Ground floor modules: perforated brick wall, pig pen, greenhouse and vegetable garden + stairs / seating area.

Ground floor collective spaces

First floor productive collective spaces

Tri-plus inserted in a traditional urban setting

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