Location: Tibet, China

Client: Motuo Meteorological Bureau

Completion Date: 2017

Built Area: 1,854 sqm

Type: Office



Architect of Record/M&E Consultant/Structural Engineer: 

Tibet Helin Architectural Design Co., Ltd.


Design Principal: Ping Jiang, AIA

Design Team: Sean Lu, Li Jiang, Tina Fang


The Motuo Meteorological Center (MMC) is located at the lowest point of Motuo County, a remote town in Tibet. Next to the Ysrlung Tsangpo River, under the Namcha Barwa, the building is surrounded by dense vegetation and rolling hills.


The project faces many difficulties and challenges. The first one is the building’s remote location. Motuo is China’s last County to be reached by road, since it is in the hard-to-reach southern mountain range of Tibet. Secondly, although Motuo is on the Tibetan plateau, its elevation only goes up to 1,200 m, and the lowest point drop down as low as 115m. As a result, Motuo has a tropical rainforest climate, unlike the rest of Tibet, Buildings here must accommodate to the challenge of abundant rain fall throughout the year. Last but not least, the design team also has to take into consideration of construction challenges, such as low construction skill, few heavy machinery, and limited building materials.


Consisting of the administrative office and staff dormitory, MMC is conceived as enclosed courtyard. The undulating roof responds to the climate, and reflects the surrounding mountains. Elevated ground level is inherited from the vernacular architecture. Windows are carefully placed, creating a rhythmic façade. The design of MMC and materiality pay tribute to local ethnic culture, blending traditional Moinba and Lhoba architecture with modern architectural elements, creating a contemporary building sensitive to local culture and tectonic tradition.


Through the early field survey, the designers tried to understand the local traditional building materials and characteristics. Local traditional buildings are heavily affected by the climate. Most of them have an elevated ground floor, using masonry as structural support. The upper level using wood as main structural elements. Sloped roof has its surface covered by wood in order to adapt to the rainy weather. For decoration, heavy window frames are used to indicate the enthusiastic spirit of the Tibetan ethnic. Some public buildings are coated with clay and the finish surface has a hand pressing pattern to speed up the wall drainage. And our building design is under the influence of the "new regionalism". "Return to nature, promote sustainable development" is the goal of our design. The team managed to respond to the local topography and climate and natural conditions, reusing local materials and construction techniques, along with modern building materials, such as carbonized wood, clay hollow brick, stone.  The building has an improved the environmental performance, at the same time, maintain the characteristics of the local ethnic culture. In the end, the building absorbing the local architectural achievements, making them its own identity, with great economical and environmental benefits.

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