Desert Architecture in Taklamakan & Gobi



The Taklamakan Desert, is a desert in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. It is the world’s second largest shifting sand desert with about 85% made up of shifting sand dunes[1]. Drought and continuously sandstorms, more than 7 million people live by the edge of the desert.

While the Gobi Desert, which is by the Taklamakan Desert to the west, occupies parts of  China and Mongolia. It is a rain shadow desert formed by the Himalaya range blocking rain-carrying clouds from the Indian Ocean from reaching the Gobi territory[2].

Living a nomadic life for 2000 years, the majority of the natives believe in Islam, and keeps close ties with the Han nationality in the history, the Desert Architecture here is deeply influenced by these features and developed into various kinds of forms.


Mongolian Ger

fig.2                                                      fig.3

The Mongolian Ger, or Mongolian Yurt, is a portable, round tent that the nomads in Central Asia often used for dwelling. The structure is formed by an angled component element or framework made by wood or bamboo as walls, a door frame, ribs, and a steam-bent wheel. The roof structure is often support by itself, but the large ones may  set several interior posts to support the vertex. The modern yurts are still built on a wooden platform, but using many contemporary materials like canvas, mate frame, and steam-bent wheels.

The yurts are removable and carried by camels or yaks so that the nomads can rebuild them at another place. And it may spend only 2 hours.


Building Procedure[3]:

  1. starting with walls and door
  2. starting to place roof poles
  3. with roof poles in place
  4. placing the thin inner cover on the roof
  5. adding felt cover
  6. adding the outer cover
  7. finish

A yurt is designed to be dismantled and the parts carried compactly on camels or yaks to be rebuilt on another site. Complete construction takes around 2 hours.


  1. small size with large interior space.
  2. ventilation √ lighting √
  3. warm in winter, cool in summer
  4. waterproof
  5. convenient for nomads


Kazakh Traditional Yurt

fig.5                                                  fig.6

The Kazakh’s yurts have two features mainly different from the Mongolian gets. One is that the Kazakh’s have cone roofs, while the Mongolian’s have domes. Another point is that the Kazakh may use pole with one side belt and bind it with wall shelf, but the Mongolian yurt may use straight pole.

Traditional Houses

Turpan-House & Cave


In the Chinese novel Journey to the West, the Flaming Mountain’s story is really fascinating that the writer described a mountain catches fire for many years even the flames stretch for 8 hundred kilometers. In fact, this unbelievable mountain is in Turpan. In the old dynasties, as for the rumors, it seems scary and terrified. Actually, the Flaming Mountain is the hottest area in China, the highest temperature in summer can be 49.6℃, while LST can be 83.3℃. As the typical Continental arid desert climate, it’s extremely dry and scorching.

The natives live in the special semi-underground arch houses, since the ground floor is a semi-basement,the winter is warm, while the summer is cool. So that people would like to live in the semi-basement during summer, after the sweltering seasons, they would live in the second floor.

The reason why the natives would live in the semi-basement, not the full basement is that the temperature is very low compared with the outside, therefore people would get sick. Moreover, the ventilation would be bad. As a result, the natives summed up some experience, the semi-basement is 0.5 meters lower than the ground, and the first floor would use adobe to form coupons and make an arch building, while the second floor’s roof would use wooden purlins,rafters and reeds. Then use dry soil to make the insulation, and mud for plastering.



Kashgar features a desert climate with hot summers and cold winters, and large temperature differences between summers and winters. However, the city has a monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 50% in March to 70% in September, so that the sunshine is abundant and the city receives 2726 hours of bright sunshine annually.

The main feature of buildings in Kashgar is that the houses scattered high and low, stretched sides, has a courtyard in the central. On this account to prevent people from strong sunshine. In addition to this, it has no windows or small size windows, if it is necessary, the natives would like to have high side windows. But for the rooms face with the courtyard, they would have large windows in order to facilitate ventilation and lighting.




In Uygur, Ayiwang means brilliant area, Ayi has a meaning of the moon, and also means inner courtyard, porch, temple of earth. The main feature is that all the rooms are surrounds Ayiwang. Two rooms are a living unit, One has a skylight is the living room.

In Hotan, many vegetables are not able to be plant in the open country, so that every Uyghur families would have orchards, as time goes on, the orchards became the centre of houses, and also place for gatherings & parties.



Ili’s architecture style has absorbed many different cultures from different nationalities including living habits, believes, preferences, and so on. It can be divided into 3 types of houses——Straight, Tortuous, and Groups.

Contemporary Architecture Plans

Whistling Dune Bay,Inner Mongolia-Lotus Hotel


Location: Dalad Banner, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China






[1] Taklamakan Desert. from:

[2] Gobi Desert. from:

[3] Yurt. from:

[4] 王其钧. (2009). 新疆阿以旺 绿舟上的安乐窝. 博物. 2009:58-59















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