Visit Ulaanbaatar on Google Earth – the alone way best of us are acceptable to get there for some time – and you will acquisition that the Mongolian basic looks like no added city. Scattered about the Soviet-era burghal centre are hundreds of bags of tiny white dots. It is as if addition has emptied an astronomic bag of armament beyond the landscape, the white specks absorption in the folds of the valleys, extending outwards for afar in long, coil tendrils.
These dots – afar in their own artifice and sometimes accompanied by the orange rectangle of a tin-roofed shack, arresting aback you zoom in abutting – are yurts (or gers in Mongolian). For bags of years, these carriageable tents, fabricated of board filigree captivated with careful acquainted and canvas, accept been the abode blazon of best for the Mongolian herders on the plains. But the drifting tent-based mindset is not article calmly accustomed up aback herders move to the burghal – with ambiguous results.
“Mongolia is the atomic densely busy country in the world,” says Badruun Gardi, who grew up in Ulaanbaatar and in 2016 founded GerHub, a nonprofit amusing activity that helps bodies acclimatize to the challenges of burghal life. “When you’re a herder, you can go for afar and afar after extensive addition family. You don’t accept to anticipate about what active in a bedfast amplitude with hundreds or bags of bodies means. It’s the bigger claiming we face as a country.”
The abstraction of a anchored basic has consistently been a aberrant abstraction for this nation of drifting herders. The 13th-century conquistador Genghis Khan disqualified his all-inclusive authority from a nine-metre-wide yurt, while Ulaanbaatar itself acclimated to be a drifting settlement, formed by bags of tents acquisition about a adaptable monastery, afterward wherever the herds of livestock absitively to travel. The Soviets attempted to formalise the basic in the 1920s, alteration its name from Urga (Ulaanbaatar agency “Red Hero”), architectonics accurate blocks of flats and ambience out an burghal grid, which was circumscribed in the postwar era. But, as bags accept flocked to the burghal in contempo years, apprenticed by the accident of livestock and promises of bigger education, healthcare and job prospects, the basic has broadcast outwards in all admonition as a sprawling ger-opolis. The acclimation from activity on the accessible steppe to the hustle of the big burghal acutely takes some accepting acclimated to.
For starters, the apple alfresco the ger is no best rolling grassland, but a baby clandestine plot, belted by a two-metre-high fence. Burghal association charge pay for baptize and fuel, await on busline and administer their waste. Their alone accomplishments accept an appulse on others, sometimes for the aboriginal time in their lives; they appointment accepted problems that become the albatross of a aggregate anatomy of people. These amusing challenges are affronted by a host of applied issues: there is no active baptize in the ger districts, nor is there mains electricity, sewerage or axial heating. In winter, aback temperatures can collapse to -40C, anniversary domiciliary burns about three to bristles tonnes of coal, authoritative Ulaanbaatar one of the best attenuated cities in the world. And the calibration of the claiming is alone increasing.
“People tend to anticipate of the ger districts as these binding hole areas,” says Gardi. “But they represent over 60% of the absolute citizenry of the city, and they’re growing by 30,000 bodies every year.”
Gardi founded GerHub to advice accompany a faculty of pride aback to the ger districts. After a few years of alive in whatever spaces it could find, the organisation’s educational and amusing beat programme has a new home, in the anatomy of a abreast booty on the acceptable ger, advised by the Hong Kong architectonics flat Rural Burghal Framework (RUF).
Standing as a faceted polycarbonate pavilion in the bosom of a abashed ger neighbourhood in the Songino Khairkhan district, the Ger Addition Hub is a arresting arrival. Its ablaze artificial walls blanket a attenuate board framework, which itself wraps about an close amplitude authentic by mud-brick walls. In summer, the absolute affair can accessible up, the bank panels appropriation to let activities discharge out into the surrounding landscape, while in the acrid winter, the layered anatomy creates a cloistral buffer.
“We were aggressive by the anatomy of the ger itself,” says Joshua Bolchover, cofounder of RUF, a research-led convenance based in the University of Hong Kong, whose acceptance helped to body the project. “We thought, what if we bark the layers of timber, insulation and waterproofing afar to actualize a allowance aural a room, like a Russian doll?” The consistent anatomy (judging from the photographs) creates a about authentic alternation of spaces that can be acclimatized to all kinds of activities, from preschool breach to addition workshops for teenagers, training sessions for bounded businesses and drop-in meet-ups for the elderly.
The layered architecture agency that, if it’s -40C outside, it would be about 0C (32F) in the absorber area (“Fine for kids to run about with their coats on,” says Bolchover), acknowledgment to solar accretion trapped by the polycarbonate cladding, while the axial amplitude would alone charge to be acrimonious to 15C, the amore beaming from the thermal accumulation of the mud walls. A annular amphitheatre at the centre of the amplitude has been sized so that a ger can be erected over it too, creating an alike added cloistral axial amount for added affectionate gatherings.
“We appetite it to be as active a abode as possible,” says Gardi. “In winter it can be decidedly backbreaking actuality ashore central for months on end, so we achievement this will be a abode for amusing activity to appear and new association ties to be formed.”
Unfortunately, the architectonics alone had the adventitious to host an aperture branch afore the coronavirus lockdown apoplectic all activities in the burghal – Mongolia took decidedly advisable aboriginal action, with few cases of Covid-19 and no deaths so far. Hopefully aback the centre does reopen it will become a basic amusing hub to advice this apprentice association anatomy neighbourhood bonds and acquire the allowances of their anew burghal life.
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