The architects have for some time been studying the process of transformation of rural China in the wake of processes of industrialisation and consequent urbanisation of the countryside. Their approach is based on observation of the ways and forms of traditional construction, building types, known materials to be adapted to future living requirements and new spaces in growing villages.
AZL uses the term ruralation to refer to a compromise, still undergoing definition, between the requirements of a changing society with new places and situations to be promoted and the practical and cultural knowledge of peoples who have traditionally worked as farmers and craftspeople. Ruralation was the theme of two recent projects by AZL in the village of Daijiashan, the new location of the Librairie Avant-Garde and the Local Art Hotel in Shes Tsuchiya, an ancient Chinese rammed earth home.
In the project, commissioned by the government of the Jiangning district, the architects work with the very idea of the public building, in its current definition as a multi-purpose place, a space for aggregation and for sharing ideas, tools and technological infrastructures. Without past references, AZL studied what types of local construction had spatial affinities with the new type, meaning a layout in which the principal space which may be used for village meetings, using the auditorium and greenhouse as its original form. The result is a new type of architecture which is not yet common in this location, the Internet Conference Center, for which AZL intends to create a prefabricated structure that can be industrially produced while maintaining an appearance inspired by traditional wooden rural constructions.
Looking at old auditoriums, AZL designed a roof based on the double-gabled style traditional in rural homes, multiplying it to form a zig-zag surface over the main area and one over the arcade: when seen from the front, the impact is that of a series of houses, that is, a new little village. The iron structure is an evolution of the greenhouse, using wooden panels as visible cladding to maintain solidity and lightness. The tall, slender columns supporting the roof over the arcade were designed by structural engineer Yuan Xin on the basis of the principles of “tensegrity”, a term derived from tension and integrity referring to the invention, ascribed to Buckminster Fuller and K. Snelson, of a structure made up of rods which do not touch one another but are stable because they are connected by tie rods. These prefabricated pillars imitating a bamboo forest and the glass infill at the base of the building launch the strongly horizontal construction upwards.
Architects: AZL Architects (Atelier Zhang Lei)
Client: Jiangning District Government
Location: Jiangning, District of Nanjing, China
Structural design: Shanghai Tongji Steel Structure Technology,Ltd
Gross useable floor space: 3000 sqm
Lot size: 5000 sqm
Start of work: 2016 - 07
Completion of work: 2016 - 10
Structure in: steel
Indoor surfaces: wood panelling, cement pressure plate
Outdoor surfaces: wood panelling, wooden grid
Floors: composite wooden floor board
Photographs: © Yao Li (www.yaolistudio.net/), Hou Bowen (firstname.lastname@example.org)