Hong Kong-based group Rural Urban Framework worked with the residents living in the Songino Khairkhan district of the Mongolian capital to create a gathering place for workshops, after-school clubs and community events.
A timber frame supports the whole building, which is structured as a room within a room. Mudbrick walls infil the wooden frames in four L-shaped configurations to bracket the inner space.
In the centre, a sunken conversation pit has amphitheatre-style seating with modular benches. The compact seating arrangement lets people sit cosily close together in cold weather.
The polycarbonate roof and outer walls let in light, and maximise the heat from the sun to warm the interior.
Extra warmth is also created by the buffer layer that traps heat between this inner sanctum and the outdoors, which doubles as a children's play area when the Ger Innovation Centre is used as a creche.
The shape of the centre is informed by the ger, a type of Mongolian yurt made from a lattice of wood and covered in felt or animal skins.
Songino Khairkhan is home to formerly nomadic people who have moved to the city, where they have permanently set up their tents and built homes from mud bricks. The Ger Innovation Centre was set up to help ease residents' transition from the nomadic lifestyle.
"In this process of becoming urban, nomadic residents are confronted with a new set of challenges," said Rural Urban Framework.
"In a culture which has no word for 'community', the aim of the project is to enable residents to address what it means to live together and forge new methods of collaboration."
Every year some 30,000 more people arrive to Ulaanbaatar, seeking job opportunities, education for their children and access to healthcare.
Families live side by side in areas with no running water or sewer system. People dig their own pit latrines, and burn coal to keep warm in bitter winters where temperatures drop to below minus 40 degrees Celsius.
During the winter, the Ger Innovation Hub is another place for people to come and hang out in the warmth, outside of their own gers.
Throughout the year the community centre hosts educational workshops on sustainability and courses in vocational training. In the summer, gardening workshops will work on planting the area around it.
Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's most polluted cities, so building a sustainable structure was a major part of the design process.
"Our work is still ongoing as we evaluate the buildings' environmental performance and monitor how it is used by residents," said the design team.
Rural Urban Framework is a not-for-profit research and design studio led by John Lin and Joshua Bolchover and based at The University of Hong Kong.
Another sustainable project from the team involved emergency housing for an area of China affected by earthquakes and flooding with roofs that doubled as farming plots.
Photography is by Rural Urban Framework.
Design: Joshua Bolchover and John Lin, Rural Urban Framework, The University of Hong Kong
Project leader: Jersey Poon
Project team: Chiara Oggioni
Project partner: GerHub: Badruun Gardi and Enkhjin Batjargal, Ecotown NGO: Odgerel Gansukh
Contractor: Odgerel Gansukh
Wood supplier: Shinest Co
Funding: Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (as part of the Jockey Club HKU Rural-Urban Design Project), YPO ASEAN United
Supporting Institutions: The University of Hong Kong, HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education