The "Your House, My House" exhibit in Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center showcased homes from Mongolia, Malaysia and Fiji.

What do a Mongolian ger, a Malaysian stilt house and a hut from Fiji have in common?

Structurally? Not much. The traditional dwellings were designed by distinct peoples facing very different environmental challenges.

But they have a common thread: providing shelter in a form that helps people survive the demands of their geography and shapes their culture.

That was the central lesson of the “Your House My House” exhibit at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. The three-month run will end after the center’s Earth Day Around the World celebration on April 16.

Along with smaller models from places like Liberia and Afghanistan, the exhibit showcased three life-size examples of international homes, giving local guests – mostly children – a glance at how other people live around the world.

Visitors learned that the ger, better known to Americans as a yurt, is a portable dwelling still used today by herders in Mongolia. Its entrance always faces south, but be sure not to knock–that’s considered rude.

With a Mongolian horse-head fiddle lilting in the background, Jason West, the center’s director of development, said exploring housing from faraway lands helps local residents appreciate their neighbors.

“Gwinnett, of course, is a very diverse county, it’s a population with a lot of different ethnic groups,” Mr. West said. “One of the things that this exhibit does is showcase the heritage of certain groups that now make Gwinnett home.”

After leasing the exhibit, the center soon found that Gwinnett has a strong Malaysian community. The Malaysian Association of Georgia quickly reached out, taking the center’s leaders shopping and teaching them about Malaysian food and dance.

The Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center aims to foster an appreciation for science, wildlife, local history and environmental stewardship.


As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...