There are many reasons for why I chose this topic of all the choices I had. One major reason was the fact that I had already researched Roman Architecture in 7th Grade and I found that it was extremely interesting. I thought that since I had already learned about one type of architecture it would also be quite interesting to know a little more on the topic of architecture and research the architecture in XiZhou. I also like science a lot so I wanted to at least incorprate some sort of science into this topic so I chose to research on how the architecture here in XiZhou is either earthquake or non-earthquake resistant.
Most of my sources were people who were quite knowledgable about earthquake resistance in architecture. The main reason for this is because this way once I had learned a lot about the earthquake resistance in architecture I would be able to identify them in XiZhou architecture or understand how these techniques could be applied in the buildings I investigate. The sources I chose were either professors or leaders of an organization which is the main reason I believed that they were extremely credible for my research purposes. Back then I came up with 10 major questions that I had hoped to answer but before long I realized that I had a few more and so I then proceeded to group my 11 or 12 questions into some main, large categories of questions. Once grouped, I found that it was much more easy to focus on what type of questions I had to ask.
Finally I came up with a thesis statement for my inquiry project which was, in order to examine earthquake resistant wall design in XiZhou architecture, one must consider three different eras: those that are pre-1949; those between 1949 through the late 1990s; and those from the late 1990s to the present.
Sharing My Learning:
I made a video to show the key ideas that I learned. This video can be found above my introduction. These are the credits for my video:
1. A-biao, Personal interview conducted by Jeffrey Z, September 20, 2013.
2. Mr. Yang, Personal interview conducted by Jeffrey Z, September 25, 2013.
3. Mr. Wang, Personal interview conducted by Jeffrey Z, September 26, 2013.
4. Construction Workers, Personal visit conducted by Jeffrey Z, October 1, 2013.
From this whole Inquiry project experience I learned quite a lot. Not only did I gain knowledge on my inquiry topic but overall how to talk to people. Many different skills were required when I was collecting information from my local contacts. I needed to be able to communicate my ideas and thought very clearly to them. I also had to be able to ask questions in a way that wasn't awkward which would involve changing the wording the wording of my questions but still be able to collect the target information. Another skill that was required was confirming the sources of information. I found that often times, one person's word/fact might not neccesarily be correct and the only way to back it up or disprove it is to collect more information. The more information from different sources that I gather, the more accurate the information will be. This meant that I couldn't just rely on one person and that I had to go out into the village very often to talk to people in order to confirm that the information I gathered is either correct or incorrect.
Overall my topic did not experience a lot of change over the course of my studies. The project topic did narrow down on what I was studying though. My topic first began as studying earthquake resistance in architecture as a whole. As I answered more and more of my questions I found that what interested me the most was the wall design and the role that it plays when an earthquake strikes the house. The main reason for this is because that walls are a pretty important part of a house and it can greatly affect things inside of a house. The lead that really hooked me into studying walls is because of the fact that the old walls were designed so that during an earthquake they would only be able to collapse outwards therefore protecting the people who are living inside of house.
One of the most difficult part of my research was kind of just finding enough information. My first contact had given me lots and lots of new information but as time progressed the information that people gave me was a little more confirmative of my old information rather than fresh and new with something that I could spend more time confirming. When I noticed this I decided to reword a few of my questions to look at how it might change anwers and to ask a few opinion based questions. I found that the opinion based questions were the most useful because you could never have a certain answer as you asked more and more people they would come up with all sorts of different reasons for why they would or would not prefer something. This meant that I was always collecting new information every time I asked the question to a different person.
There were many major a-ha moments in my research and most of them occured after a short stall/lull in the collection of new information. They usually felt pretty great and they definitely relieved me. The main reason for this is that as my input of information came to a stop I would be afraid that I had somehow hit a dead end in my studies or maybe taken a wrong turn somewhere that caused this. Most of the time I just needed to find a fresh place to start collecting information and I would be perfectly fine. One of the most major discoveries that I found was the insulation that was apparent in the houses built between 1949 and the late 1990s. At first I could not really tell why people said that those type of houses were better, they just said that they were better. I was also wondering at why they would want to switch from wood to mud. My only explanation back then was that mud was more cheap. It turns out that the main reason was that the mud houses were more insulated.
This project easily helped me understand my topic better. Not only did I learn about some of the financing problems when building architecture I also learned about how they can be designed in different ways to have different effects. Another fact that I learned that it was possible to reduce life loss in an earthquake. My belief back then was that there was not anyway to lower the chances of life loss to an extremely low level. But now that I have learned about the design of the pre-1949 houses here in XiZhou I have changed my idea and realized that it is actually possible to lower the chances of life loss during an earthquake to an extremely low level.
The project required me to walk up to random construction worker strangers and be able to talk to them. It also required me be able to talk to the locals and ask for opinions on some questions that would seem quite weird to ask a stranger. All of these were in fact interactions with the locals whithin the community that I was staying at. Overall my project required me to interact for sure with local contacts that were experts as well as locals workers that were building a structure.
The project made it so that I had to extend my chinese abilities to a degree of having trouble understanding different dialects that could be found in the village. It also made it so that I had to be careful about what I say incase I worded a sentence/question wrong and the person who I was asking understood it wrongly and gave me an answer that was fo the way that they interpreted the question or sentence that I had said to them.
One major piece of advice that I would give them is that collect as much information as you can. I personally didn't have any problems but I still think that I could've have used a little more information. Another major advice is that do not expect things to be as you expect them. Think of all the things you have ever learned on the topic. Chances are, about 20 to 30% of them are information/techniques that aren't applied here. I had expected my inquiry project to turn out one way but now that I am nearly done with my project I find that things are pretty far off from what I had first expected when I had come here. I had expected the modern buildings to be filled with all sorts of earthquake proofing technology but in truth they weren't and it makes perfect sense because they aren't as financially advanced as the places that can apply these techniques. Another advice is that you should never, take the reflections of other alumni as a hint of salt. Most of them are actually pretty useful reflections and I found that out a little later than I would have wanted to.
Once again I would like to voice the idea of a pervious microcampus student from the B-4 group. Her name is Clara and I think that her project idea was pretty interesting. She suggested that if every microcampus student that studied architecture designed a small part of a house. Eventually we could put all the pieces together and create one large house. I have made my contribution as an earthquake resistant wall design. Another direction to take this research is to research the designs on some of the older walls. I spent most of my time researching the design of the earthquake resistance of the walls. During my studies I noticed qute a few carvings on the walls and I think that they would be quite interesting to study because then the walls would just be plain white washed walls. The walls would actually have symbols/pictures that have meaning and add to the microcampus house.
I would like to give my many thanks to Mr. Tafel and Annaliese who have supported me during the process of my project. They have helped me reach my goal in ways that I would not have been able to achieve by myself. Even so, my largest and most heartfelt thanks still go to the many construction workers that I talked to as well as A-biao who is a construction manager and allowed me to take pictures of the many houses that were under construction, brought me to see some other houses and helped me define the differences between the many hosues here and group them into large categories. Finally I would like to give my thanks to every person who has helped me with my inquiry project and helped me to achieve what I have achieved. My parents also deserve many thanks due to the fact that they were the ones who financed this whole trip. Thank you father, thank you mother.