Far to the east of the famed Himalayan peaks, the first phase of the Ringa Mountain Farm Project has been completed in Ringa, Tibet. This town in the beautiful rural Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefuncture in Yunnan was renamed “Shangri-la” in 2002, and it has seen a rise in tourism over the past 10 years. The Ringa Mountain Farm is an ecological building project which will ultimately create an eco-farm and guesthouse by the end of 2014. This project is being spearheaded by the young and enthusiastic Helsinki-based team of Rudanko & Kankkunen and Switzerland-based Rammed Earth-building expert Vittorio Moretta.
In the Sping of 2012, designer Anssi Kankkunen and earth-builder biologist Vittorio Moretta spent almost two months in Tibet working with locals to investigate architecture and building technologies. Their hope was to refine the current architectural vernacular into a much more sustainable solution for future Tibetan projects. They found that current techniques in this area of Tibet were nothing more than basic stick-built buildings with limited insulation provided by earth. Research provided by the architects even found that traditional Tibetan houses in this region of Shangri-la “consumes 100-130 trees or approximately 250-300 cubic meters of timber”. Therefore, Kankkunen and Moretta’s involvement in finding a more sustainable option seemed even more critical.
Though work continues on the Ringa Mountain Farm project, the designers together with local builders and carpenters have finished a trial pavilion within the village for the public to enjoy. This pavilion sits outside of a local kindergarten, where villagers can gather, rest, and exchange ideas. The pavilion used rammed earth technology combined with integrated barley straw insulation in order for the builders to test the improvement of the wall’s insulative properties. Wooden column and beam supports combine with the rammed earth wall to hold up the recycled wood shingle roof above the villagers. Using locally available materials, such as local soil and timber, along with traditional Tibetan architecture and construction will contribute to the long-lasting sustainability of these future projects. The goal of the project is to better insulate the traditional rammed earth buildings in order to save local wood and utilize less heating.
The Ringa Mountain Farm project seeks to leverage the tourism profit in order to support the rural economy and protect the beautiful environment of the Shangri-la region. This new eco-farm will have a long lasting effect on the livelihood of the community, while respecting the local environment and culture. Along with Moretta, Rudanko & Kankkunen continue to think outside the box of traditional economic practices in order to provide sustainable buildings for every population.