Hongru Art Centre
Architecture, by accurately meeting a set of structural, environmental and programmatic requirements, has an essential functional role.
However, important architecture sets itself more ambitious goals: first, it must be inventive; second it must create drama and excitement; and third, it should strive to find poetic solutions to spatial challenges.
Our design concept addresses these ambitious aims of inventive, dramatic and poetic space through a sequential interrogation of the elements of architectural drawing: the plan, the elevation, and the section. We ask a question of each:
1. Planometric: how to reinvent a four-sided architectural type to conform with a three sided plot?
2. Elevational: how to manifest the drama of the art display space on the external facade of the contemporary art centre?
3. Sectional: how to resolve the conflicting needs of the artist through the use of the spatial void?
Plan: a three-sided courtyard in a three-sided building
The most traditional, in fact, the essential building type in China is the four-sided courtyard building. This building has the advantage of bringing the qualities of outdoor space within the confines of an enclosed building form. The result is the paradigmatic ‘outdoor room’.
While present throughout Chinese history, this type is no longer present in contemporary architecture. What invention is needed to revive this classical type?
The site for the Hongru International Art Centre is a narrow, three sided plot with long sides facing to the north and south. A traditional four-sided courtyard could not fit onto this plot. To make a courtyard building successfully fit this plot both the building outline and the internal courtyard have to be transformed from four to three sided forms.
This unique solution to the three-sided plot brings an important benefit. The central courtyard is transformed from an internal ‘trapped’ space to an open space that separates the surrounding volumes. In effect, the courtyard is promoted from inferior to equal resulting in a more subtle interplay of form and space, open and closed. This solution is unique: this three-sided courtyard building is possibly the first large-scale building of this intriguing type.
Elevation: the open gallery and floating floor
The standard gallery space is internalised. It looks inward to art work hung on walls; it relies on artificial light; it appeals to a small, privileged audience and turns its back on the city. The Hongru International Art Centre attempts the opposite. Rather than looking inward the art space is open to the city: it celebrates art as a civilising and collective element of the urban environment. How is this dramatic effect achieved?
Creating an expressive open first-floor space entails lifting the top two floors of the art centre. The drama is a created by making these floors float: half the building must appear to hover in the air above a massive art space. This illusion is achieved by the use of slender columns and a ‘waffle slab’ that gives the floor plate particular rigidity. This effect is augmented by the fenestration arrangement which introduces diagonal movement into the elevation.
The result is a dramatic celebration of art that opens itself to the city and a collection of more intimate artists’ studios that hover above as if floating on air.
Section: the artistic void space and the sky garden
The artist requires natural light to work with, seclusion for contemplation, and a certain connection both to the earth-bound sublime as found in nature and to the cosmic realm. The artists’ studios in the arts centre are necessarily positioned on the second floor above the display space and below the private club spaces. How are the poetic needs of the artist satisfied in this configuration?
The last key element of the design concerns the void: the building is punctured by a series of vertical openings that bring light deep into the artists’ studios. These voids are also used to allow the creation of garden spaces adjacent to the studios; these ‘sky gardens’ complement the main central garden space in the ground floor central courtyard. In addition to allowing light penetration and the creation of gardens, the voids open up views towards the sky itself. Rather than looking out onto the city, the void addresses the vertical and by directing the gaze upwards the artist reflects not on the everyday and contingent but rather on the eternal and the potential.
In summary, while on the one hand meeting the demands of rationality, functionality and efficiency, the Hongru Internationl Arts Centre strives to be a unique and generous form of architectural expression. First, it revives and reinvents a deeply historical form of architecture through the conception of the three-sided courtyard.
Second, it peels away the mask of contemporary art display spaces by positing an open gallery and floating creative spaces above it. And third, it introduces the poetic notion of the garden and sky deep into the heart of the contemporary are complex through the use of spatial voids.
- Location: :Linyi, Shandong Province, China
- Use: Cultural
- Client: Private
- Status: Completion in 2014
- Area: 6,000s qm
- Design team: Christopher Lee, Bolam Lee, Martin Jameson, Fei Wu, Huida Xia, Charlotte Shu, Michael Tao Huang, Andrew Chow