Documentary Film of Traditional Stone House Craftsmanship: 

Stone Architecture of Bei Huang Ku


Arts-based research | Traditional craftsmanship | Architectural heritage


A field research of traditional architecture in the stone village of Bei Huang Ku.

Shandong, China (2017-2019). 

Instructed by Kuo Jze Yi.  

Directed, shot and produced by Jiahui Liao. 







《北黄谷石头建筑文化记》为此次北黄谷乡村建筑实践项目的纪录片,主要记录并重新诠释了当地的建筑设计、生活故事,以及最重要的 - 传统石头建筑技艺 - 包括上山采石、选择石块与石面、切割与打磨石块、搬运木材、垒墙与搭建屋顶、引入灯光的全过程。其中,穿插记录了北黄谷村公共互动空间建设的过程,以及对传统民居进行测量与测绘的内容。



Beihuanggu is a natural village with simple folklore but an isolate location - it's two-and-a-half-hour bus ride and two-hour mountain journey from Jinan, the provincial capital city of Shandong, China.

Here, stone buildings have been built for 400 to 500 years - the villagers of Bei Huang Ku have been building their own houses for generations, using local materials and going up to the mountains to fetch stones. The houses in the village are strong and durable, warm in winter and cool in summer, and live in harmony with nature.

The Bei Huang Ku Communal Space Project features a 2-week architecture research, working with the local community and local social service centre, with participation of local stone-masons. The work included the construction of a communal space of the village, mapping the local architecture and documenting the village culture.

Stone Architecture of Bei Huang Ku is a documentary film on this project, which focuses on the traditional stone building techniques of the village. It features the documentation and reinterpretation of the local architecture design, life stories, and most importantly -  traditional stone architecture construction techniques - including the whole process from quarrying, selecting stones and surfaces, cutting and polishing stones, carrying timber, building walls and roofs, and introducing the light. Interspersed with this is a record of the process of building a public communal space in the village , as well as the mapping of traditional architecture.

It researched on participatory community development and explored ways of activating public space based on public events and local living traditions. 

With this film, the creator wish to pay tribute to the hard work of the local stone masons and villagers of Bei Huang Ku, Weifang Yuandu Volunteer Service Center, the research and organisation team, the members of the construction and mapping team, and all the peers involved in the heritage and development of rural and traditional architecture. 


Art-Based Research

  • Documentary film
  • Project recording
  • Photography

Deep Interview

  • Local stone masons and villagers
  • Architects, students and workers
  • Public service organisation representatives

On-Site Observation

  • Field research on the whole process of stone architecture construction: quarries, construction sites, villagers' homes


1. Full Documentary film

A 16-min documentary film recording the architecture techniques of building stone houses in the village of Bei Huang Ku.


Tecent Video

2. Record of the research project

A 8-min film recording the project, including the construction of the space and architectural record conducted.

Tecent Video

Project summary

1. A cross-disciplinary research

This project has been carried out at the intersection of several disciplines: architecture, social service, traditional living culture, media and filming, and as a result, it features communication between terminologies used in different disciplines.

In addition, huge efforts have been made in communication and translation between different dialects (Chinese mandarin and the local Shandong dialect), and between different stakeholders (local villagers, social service team, research team etc.)

Hand-drawn architectural plans

Team sharing and local-consulting

Architectural work

Architectural work

2. People-centered "living heritage" and place-making

The project has been an experiment on taking care of a "living heritage", where people collectively re-image and re-invent public spaces within the community.

  • Value: towards a people-centred "living heritage", as compared with the conventional material-based approach and values-based approach. The values and changes applied have been handled with great care in meeting the local villagers' needs and in making all the stakeholders satisfied.
  • Approach: participatory planning, work with, for, and by local people. For example, local villagers' opinions and technicians' advice were carefully consulted as a protection of their right to engage in decisions and their role as the guardians of long-term care of heritage. In general, the formation of the team has been highly decentralized and decisions have been made in a bottom-up manner.

This project puts a spotlight on a not-so-well-known, isolated and primitive heritage site, which features a high degree of locality. Specifically, the site might be generally considered with less "value significance" than many other natural/ cultural/ mixed sites in China, a nation with enormous heritages from its thousands of years of history; not to mention the sites on the World Heritage List that attract even more attention and resources.

Though relative policies have supported the development of the village in many aspects, including tourism facilities, care for left-behind children and old person, less attention has been given to the protection and passing-down of the traditional stone architecture. In fact, there are many old stone buildings that have fallen into disrepair and the village has started to build concrete buildings. In addition, the stonemasons in the village are all in their 60s or 70s, while the young people in the village want to move to the city and no one is learning the techniques.

3. Cultural mapping, heritage documenting and reinterpreting

The project includes the documentation of local stone architecture building techniques and the mapping of local architecture, which in turn were shared with the local villagers during a final sharing session.

We hope that such traditions will be remembered, passed on and enjoy higher level of public awareness of heritage protection. At the same time,  we hope that we will find more answers about development in such highly natural simplicity - perhaps this sincerity and simplicity is where we come from and where we will evolve.

Documenting the tools required for construction work

Hand-painted elevation of stone wall texture

Sharing session for the villagers

Sharing session for the villagers

4. Sustainable development

Sustainable development (UNESCO, 2015), as an important aspect of heritage management, is also of vital concern in this project.

Firstly, in terms of ecosystem benefits, the materials and processes used in this project are inherently natural and have been proven to be comfortable for living (warm in winter and cool in summer, and resilience to natural hazards) in the long practice of the local inhabitants, the architectural team simply applied new designs to traditional building methods.

Secondly, the project encourages inclusive social development by respecting, consulting and involving local experts and communities, and through the construction of the new public communal place, enhancing quality of life and well-being.

In addition, the project triggers economic development for the site, from the direct income increase for the housing and farmhouse restaurant from the presence of the research team, to further indirect income beneficial from the newly-constructed local facility for future development.

Lastly, throughout the project, the team made efforts in protecting the heritage during conflicts, such as reconciling the impact of new construction on the life of the original village and the timing of construction.

Top view of the Bei Huang Ku village - far view

Top view of the Bei Huang Ku village - close view

Live view of the communal space constructed - in the daytime

Live view of the communal space constructed - in the night

Collaboration Framework

  • Kuo Jze Yi, architect and researcher, Assistant Professor in Shenzhen University School of Architecture and Urban Design, Visiting Lecturer in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design.
  • Insitu Project, a non-profit registered association founded by Peter Hasdell and Kuo Jze Yi. Situated at the intersection of design and the social sciences, Insitu Project aims at the enabling and activation of local conditions towards sustainable practices. The Project conducts cross-disciplinary site specific projects including architecture, spatial interventions, site and context investigations, spatial planning, social enterprise formation and workshops in rural contexts.
  • Weifang Yuandu Volunteer Service Center
  • School of Architecture & Urban Planning, SZU
  • School of Design, PolyU

Links & Press releases


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