Cartier Wu Zhi Qiao
Wu Zhi Qiao Foundation In 2000, a small team of investigators conducted survey studies of a few remote village of the loess plain in North West China. It was during the study that a dire need of simple became apparent. Students and villagers from one side of the river cross it barefoot to attend school and to continue their livelihood. A simple wood plank and mud bridge, which gets wash away every year, is their only means. During the rainy reasons, the risen water level washes away the wood-mud bridge and sweep away lives. Students from the opposite side would not be able to attend school for months. A few years ago, a mother and her son crossed the river on a rainy day. Tragically, their corpses were found 6 days later. Something needs to be done! We had a desperate call urged us that not one more life should be taken away by rivers. Simple bridges are needed and this was how the Wu Zhi Qiao Foundation was founded in 2007. Background Located in Zhangjia, Tianshui city, Gansu County, China, with a population of 1108 and less than 800 Yuen incomes per person per year, Datan Village is a typical poor rural village in the western China. Ma Lu River is the main water system in the region. Its total length is 66.84km and an area of 425 km². It freezes every December and melts in late March. Precipitation between summer and autumn can reach to 333.5mm and the river can reach to a depth of 1m. A Mosque was built in 2007as 90 percent of the villagers believe in Islam. The villager had to attend worship everyday in the Mosque on the opposite side of the river. Apart from this, the villagers had to cross the river in order to work and study so they would build a temporary bridge by placing two abandoned cable column half meter above the river level. However, this kind of temporary bridge needs to be rebuilt a few times a year and villagers cannot cross the bridge when the river level rises. Therefore, the village was in need of a well constructed bridge to satisfy the religious need and ensure the villagers’ safety. Concept The design concept was based on the “crescent`, which symbols the Islam and also meaning rising, new born and a new era. The concept first attempt was to blend in with the bendy river and continuous mountains by using a gentle and affinity design. The curving bridge surface gives an illusion of floating pass from North to South. On top of that is the dislocation of the bridge entrance that gives the experience of a changing view when stepping through the bridge. The bridge western end points to the West, where the Islam holy ground is located. The one who crosses the bridge would face the Mosque’s roof in the village when stepping on the west side of the bridge. This design aims to allow the villagers to prepare their hearts and experience pilgrimage every time they cross the bridge. Cost, Buildability and Maintenance Wu Zhi Qian Foundation aims for an appropriate, efficient, and simple to operate way of building with low cost and low techniques. With high science and basic requirement of man operation power; construction time, building difficulties and risks could be decreased significantly. Structure The difference between the bottom of the river and the side could reach 1.8m. The river bank is about 25m wide. We decided to construction containers by using nets of wire, which will later fill with stones we found at the site and become the gabions. The bridge will be lay on top of these gabions after. Materials The bridge is built of natural materials as much as possible. The gabions are filled with stones at the river bank. The gabions and the steel planks are the only intervention deemed necessary. The surface of the bridge is made of bamboo. We found a cost effective way to assemble the bamboo panels and the equal sized steel plank simplifies construction procedures and shorten the time needed. Construction The project was carried out by 50 volunteers and students from Hong Kong and Xi’an Jiaotong University alongside with local villagers in a week. The project intended to let the Hong Kong and mainland volunteers to have a cultural exchange experience with each other and the local villagers at the same time. The volunteers lived in the villagers’ houses and dine with them, which allowed the volunteers to experience the local life and culture throughout the trip. Villagers, from men and women to elderly and kids, helped out in the construction process. Not even the rainy weather nor the killing sun could stop the building process, in fact, the relationship between volunteers and villagers became more intimate as they share the same goal. Despite the differences of region and identity, the project was completed under deep and heartily connection. Teaching basic building techniques when constructing with the local villagers would benefit the local community for their own protection and usage. As the economy develops rapidly, the chase of modern architecture abandons tradition cultures’ characteristics. Therefore, Wu Zhi Qiao Foundation’s projects promote the local traditional ethnicity and craftsmanship through adopting the local wisdom into the designs. Postscript The villagers told us that there was once a flood after the bridge was completed, the leader of the village was worried so he went to see from the side of the bridge. What he saw was the peaceful Wu Zhi Qiao in the heavy rain where numerous villagers gathered together. One of the elderly said they could only sigh at the river during times like this generation after generations, and never could have thought in his life time that they can enjoy the view like now. We were deeply moved when hearing this that when we walk the little steps for them, we have improvement the living condition of the local people in a huge pace.

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