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Three heavy concrete structures are inspired by Shui language and character of mountains in China

China - Dec 26, 2017 - 02:26   5324 views

Three elongated heavy concrete structures are the new home and a new gateway for the local people of Sandu County, the land of the Shui, in Guizhou Province, China. The new Shui Cultural Center designed by China-based architecture firm West-Line Studio will serve for one of the ethnic minority groups of China, most of whom live in Guizhou where West-Line Studio works exclusively.

The building, comprised of three main stripes, draws a distinctive character and iconic shape with its heavy concrete volumes covered by perforated cast-in-bronze steel plates, which is attributed to the Shui language, following the shape of the character for 'mountain'. 

Inspired by Shui's traditional characters, the architects apply a special facade pattern, starting again from the basic triangular shape of the mountain, which is repeated to evoke the character for 'rain'.

"Despite being few in number, the Shui people have still retained their own language, together with their unique system of pictographs. They have around 400 characters used mostly during ceremonies and sacrifices," said West-Line Studio.

"This  is why the office pays special attention to researching minority cultures and traditions in order to bring some of their particular elements into the design," added the studio.

The Shui Cultural Center, covering a total of 4,223-square-metre area, combine all the functions of the tourist-cultural center. The first is the ritual hall, which with its sharp edges, strong colors and narrow space aims to create a strong first impression on visitors, who are clearly stepping into a different dimension. 

The second stripe still keeps the sharp roof but welcomes visitors with less dramatic tones and serves as reception hall. In the third stripe, which has two floors, at the ground level, visitors loose the pitch roof to find a more conventional space that includes all the main functions: visitor and service center, cafeteria, toilets, business center and an upstairs office area.

The site creates a bend shape along the river, so it is surrounded by water on three sides. On the other, the West side, a water square welcomes the visitors guiding them to the entrance. 

"Shui means water, which is why this element is so relevant for both the site and project. North of the water landscape is the Yulong tower, with a bronze drum on the top," added the firm.

"The drum, cast in bronze, is a typical ritualistic element in Shui culture. Bronze can also be found in their altars, which inspired the architects to use perforated bronze steel plates to cover the building. The pattern makes the plates lighter – a thin skin which creates a contrast with the heavy concrete structure – breaking the sunlight to create a dramatic effect once inside." 

"The concrete is marked strongly by a wooden pattern, given by the pine quarterdecks. Pinewood is one of the most common materials in the Sandu area and the contemporary concrete structure echoes the local traditional wooden architecture," explained the architects.

The Shui Cultural Center, standing as a new contemporary landmark, pays homage to the local culture and traditional architecture. The Shui culture is evoked using particular materials and shapes but also in recreating a holy space, able to submerge the visitor who is guided into a magic journey through the Shui’s ancestral world.

Site plan

Concept diagram

West elevation

1st floor and 2nd floor plans

Project facts

Architect: West-Line Studio

Location: Sandu County, Guizhou Province, China

Design: Haobo Wei, Jingsong Xie

Area surface: 13,808.04 m2

Building surface: 4,223.59 m2


Architecture and Landscape: Hanmin Dan, Yudan Luo
Site Construction Control: Haobo Wei , Hanmin Dan, Minghua Ou
Interior Design: Martina Muratori
Structure: Yuanping Li, Xiaoqiang Yang
Equipment: Hongbo Shi
Research: Lanyu Xu, Danjing Zhong, Zhili Yin, Jing Shi, Yulan Xu,Hong Yang
Graphic: Martina Muratori, Jinda Zheng

Images © Jinsong Xie, Jinda Zheng, Zhili Yin, Hongsen Kang, Haibo Xie

> via West-Line Studio