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Exhibits archive

Szechuan earthquake disaster reconstruction

Companies: Autodesk, Hsieh Ying Chun, Tsinghua University

Project Location: Szechuan Province, China

Industry: Architecture, Engineering & Construction

Rebuilding an entire region to modern standards while retaining local traditions

Following the 2008 earthquake in the Szechuan province of China, Autodesk joined forces with renowned Taiwanese architect Hsieh Ying Chun, local government agencies, and the local design institute from Tsinghua University to form reconstruction plans.

Szechuan earthquake

On May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale struck the Szechuan province of China, leaving 69,000 people dead and 375,000 injured. More than 6 million buildings collapsed while another 23 million suffered severe damage, leaving an estimated 4.8 million people homeless. Teaming with Taiwanese architect Hsieh Ying Chun, Autodesk embarked on a project to quickly build high-quality, sustainable buildings in the disaster-hit region.

Design response

A standardized construction model was designed around a lightweight steel frame, lowering the overall weight of the structure. By incorporating local building materials including grass, earth, and bamboo, the team was able to significantly reduce material costs, ensure that the aesthetics of the buildings mirrored existing architecture in the area, and maintain its commitment to environmental sustainability.

By making use of straightforward construction techniques and sustainable materials, the team significantly reduced the level of construction experience needed, enabling a wider spectrum of local residents to participate in the building process.

Building performance simulation

To optimize the performance of the steel frame, the Autodesk Research and Development team in Shanghai ran the design through extensive structural simulations to help ensure maximum stability and earthquake resistance. The team produced a portfolio of 5 standardized home types designed around lightweight steel frames and using readily available local materials for building exteriors.


A trial construction of one of the model houses was conducted in the Jiulong Township in Mianzhu. Combining a steel frame with local materials enabled quick and easy construction that can withstand future earthquakes.

Yangliu, a town in Aba Mao County, needed to relocate all 400 of its residents for fear of landslides. The reconstruction is being performed entirely by residents and without heavy construction machinery. The new buildings effectively blend advanced design technologies with time-tested regional building methods that could be rapidly implemented by an untrained, local labor force, all while maintaining a commitment to environmental sustainability.