Cultural vitality as the fourth pillar of sustainable development has been widely acknowledged, and vernacular architecture as a major part of a nation’s material culture has entered the cultural sustainability dialogue. This recognition demands that new housing design and development should honor a local or regional identity. This in-depth case study assesses the architectural, environmental, spatial, constructional, social, cultural, and behavioral aspects of the Jiaanbieyuan (“Excellent Peace Courtyard-Garden Housing Estate”) built in Suzhou, China, in 1998. The 500-unit Jiaanbieyuan is located close to two UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, the Canglang (“Surging Waves”) Pavilion and the Master-of-Nets Garden. It has attempted to recreate Suzhou’s traditional architecture and landscape architecture. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through numerous research methods, including onsite surveys and interviews. The findings show the new housing forms do not promote social relations as effectively as the traditional housing of the past. Moreover, the communal Central Garden has functioned to some extent as a social and cultural activity space. The study further proposes a new courtyard-garden housing system that facilitates social interaction and cultural activities.
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