On day, a project : Shitang Village Internet Conference Center by AZL Architects

Photography by Bowen Hou

Spring is coming and going, so I have time to read and look at a lot of projects. Except that as I discovered more and more of them, I was struggling to find the one that would thrill me. I set my sights on a Chinese work, guaranteed 100% pangolin-free. But no more puns (you had to dare to take that one out), now it’s time for… architecture !

Located 40 kilometers south-west of Nanjing (that doesn’t speak to you, me neither without google map), the project of the day is a vast building lost in the Chinese countryside. Between beautiful mountains and thick green forests (we confined city dwellers dream about it), AZL Architects proposes a rural conference center initiated within the framework of “beautiful countryside” projects. As a result, reflections on rurality do not only concern our French burgs and town centres.

Seen from the outside, this building gives the impression of a big man with an overstretched hair. This gesture would come from a wish of the designers to recall the typologies of rural buildings. Let’s say. Usually, these auditoriums are supported by bamboos. Here, they have been replaced by ultra-thin posts, keeping this fineness in mind while allowing the roof to be supported, which is much more important than in ancestral public places.

Steel and wood were chosen, prefabricated and assembled to perfection. The vertical lines give the impression of an elongated, breathable and light building.
The interplay of roofs and perforations provide a soft and pleasant natural light inside. The wood finishes help to create this atmosphere from outdoors to indoors.

The plan responds to the grid imposed by the post and beam structure. Regular, uncluttered. Everything I like. This homogenous ensemble perhaps lacks a slight architectural signage to mark the entrance. The counter-argument would be to consider this building as a covered public space. In which case the effect is successful.

Finally, despite this massive aspect, the project responds to the site and cultural specificity by taking the codes of Chinese public buildings in rural areas while adding a touch of freshness and modernity.

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