“I really enjoyed myself today in the workshop…It is too hard to leave that place, as I couldn’t control my eyes stare at such a fascinating piece of work. … This is the first time that I have a chance to make so big a stuff in my childhood.” This quote is from the diary of Xia Yu, a local left-behind child, who is one of members in Sunners · Space Installation Construction Summer Camp in Yilong (Nanchong, Sichuan Province). During the camp, 24 children had designed and set up a series of space installations by themselves for the first time. These beautiful works have attracted a lot of local residents and students to come to the exhibition on the last day, which seemed to make it become a carnival, as lively as the Spring Festival.
▼由设计师和孩子们在恩施共同搭建的空间装置， a series of space installations set up by the designers and the local children from Enshi
In recent years, small mountain villages, such as Yilong and Enshi, have been in a dilemma. Young people have to leave their hometown and to support their large family due to the scarce land resources. As young move to towns and cities far away for a better life, a large number of children are left behind and can only get along with their older grandparents, turning into ‘de facto orphans’. [de facto orphans means children with one or two parents alive but unwilling or unable to raise them]. In spite of similarly being labelled as ‘de facto orphans’ or ‘left-behind children’, these children are living in totally different lifes in different places.
▼位于仪陇的建造营，installations set up in Yilong
Left-behind children in Yilong and Enshi represents two different states of living modle, comprising of social welfare, learning environment and psychological health. In Yilong, the majority of these children are at the age of 12 to 15 year-old, and more than 60% of them are children born outside of wedlock. Many of them didn’t have basic hygienic habits when they came to the summer camp first time. Volunteers even need to teach them from how to wash face and hand with patience. The absence of companionship over a long period makes them thirst for love. However, as the eroded sense of social propriety, once the volunteers attempt to show goodwill, these children are easy to tend to overstep the bounds, doing something like asking for mobile phone or camera, or even rummaging through bags without permission. On the other hand, they may immediately show habitual loneliness, once the volunteers fails to response to their need in time. We cannot display a indifference to their precocity and delicate. In contrast, the situation of children in Enshi is much better. On the average of 12 years old, they are younger kids who mostly live in an unbroken family. Despite their long-term lack of accompany from parents, these children are living in a sufficient condition and are well cared for by school and family. They are enthusiastic and lively, wowed by new wonders, and have youthful sensibilities.
▼展出时的装置，Raise Me Up on exhibition
给这些孩子做空间装置建造营，这是第一次，没有任何先例可循。对于这些从心理状态到知识储备完全不同的孩子，“RAISE ME UP”空间装置建造营试图探索更多的未知：平均年龄不足12岁的孩子，能否独立完成一个“建筑”，或者说“空间装置作品”？孩子们能否完全参与到建造的整个过程中，不需要教师和家长们代劳？教师干预与孩子们自主创造的平衡点在哪里？面对两群心理状况与学习基础完全不同的孩子，建造营要如何调整课程适应他们？建造能否由建筑师推而广之，成为教师与孩子们共同学习的基础课程？
For us, there is no precedent for such a volunteer activity to reference as this is the first time to organize this kind of space installation construction camp for these special children. For these children who are different in both physiological and mental state, ‘Raise Me Up’ camp was set up to explore the unknown: Is it possible for these children to construct an ‘Building’ or ‘Installation’ all by themselves? Could they get involved in the whole construction progress without teachers or parents’ help? Where is the balance between self-creation and teachers’ interference? How to adjust the courses according to children with different physiological and mental state? Could construction course be popularizing and become a foundation course?
▼基于柔性管系统搭建的装置，the installation is based on a lean tube system
When looking for some inexpensive construction materials, we find an interesting material — ‘Lean Tube System’. With the beginning of industrial age, lean tube system was widely popularized and used for its usability and security, and developed from the Lean Manufacturing Idea (simple, to cut the costs and increase the efficiency) popularized throughout the latter half of the 20 century. Now, lean tube system is commonly used to build a structure system working in those factories in southern China, where most of these left-behind children’s parents worked. Lean tube system provides more than 10 component connection methods. They are plentiful and cheap, with high fault tolerance, and could be setting up without considering too much precise data and structure rules. On the other hand ,compared with common building steels, they are lighter and easier to constructing small-scale installations.
▼八棱锥型的小房子，孩子们可以完全自己动手建造，a shelter in an octahedral pyramid form that can be simply set up by children themselves
In Enshi camp, we set some basic rules: every group can use 16 lean tubes to build a shelter in an octahedral pyramid form. The children can complete it all by themselves. Even if some connection components may not be structured well, the stabilities of the whole structure will not be affected. Moreover, these shelters could be assorted independently, making a spatial form of settlement. After the main structure finished, the children could try whatever they want to create their own shape by using the polycarbonate hollow sheet and hemp rope as decoration and enclosure, forming amazing variety of space closures. By regard Polycarbonate hollow sheet as canvas, ticker tapes as pigment and scissor as pen, the children were just like playing a game of colors in the sunshine.
▼若干组小房子自由组合，形成原始聚落空间形态，the shelters could be assorted independently, making a spatial form of settlement
▼夜间的“嘉年华” ，a “carnival” at night
In Yilong camp, in order to reduce transportation cost and fit the characteristic of older children bamboo was chosen to be the materiel instead of lean tube. And Every group was given 36 bamboos to construct a more complicated form. From a general point of view, these shelters are sorely stretched to be described as ‘building’. They are not inhabitable, with no certain function, and even hardly shelter people from rain and wind. While, during the six days, all the children had acquitted themselves of various architects’ duties splendidly: got assignment, defined the site conditions and design requirements, used sketches or summaries to propose their ideas, and then finished the construction with team.
▼仪陇的建造营以更为轻质的竹子配合柔性管体系的预制构件，in Yilong camp, bamboo was chosen to be the materiel instead of lean tube
Initially, we have considered to use volunteers’ work as an example to direct the children, but we changed our mind when the camp started. Having no ‘understanding’ or ‘communicating’ issues , all the children have finished the work perfectly at twice the speed that we expected. Five-day intense creation work gave a chance for children to build their own space installation, which was a meaningful practice even most adults may never have experienced. During the camp, even people living far away from school inquired about those six shelters: ‘Is that true? Our children will build six houses?’ We felt so pride and joyful, not only for the camp becoming a big thing in the small village, but children becoming central character. In the summer camp, they are ‘On Site’!
▼更高年龄的孩子完成了更为复杂的形体， a more complicated form by older children
The volunteers coming together from all over the country are also ‘On Site’! ‘I thought architects build rather than design houses just like what we usually see in the city,’ a volunteer said, ‘I didn’t expect architects are able to do so much interesting things until today! Maybe architect would be one of my career choice in the future.’ In camp, volunteers may not just give their goodwill, but also grow up with these children together. Everyone is equal, in this ‘little’ case.
▼装置吸引了周边百余居民和学生，these beautiful works have attracted a lot of local residents and students to come to the exhibition on the last day
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