East meets West in aoe’s Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center

Roman arches fuse with Italian piazzas and Chinese tea rooms in the pristine white art hall complex by aoe, sitting amid nature in Chengdu, China, as a landmark of cultural exchange.

by Jincy IypePublished on : May 11, 2021

Beijing-based firm aoe has recently completed the Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center, a pristine white city art hall concealed within the woods of Chengdu, China. The refreshingly diverse piece of architecture includes multifunctional spaces for exhibitions, meetings, reception, and catering, displaying a wonderful marriage of Italian and Sino style elements in its contemporary architecture. aoe mindfully traversed the intersection of the two cultures, celebrating the differences and union between the East and the West.

The Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center designed by aoe | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
The Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center designed by aoe Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

“The overall design concept was taken from the ‘ruyi’, which has been used in China since ancient times as a gift to foreign ambassadors to signify the conclusion of friendly relations, and the peace of the two countries,” shares Wen Qun, lead architect for the project.

Aerial view of the Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center complex with the parking | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
Aerial view of the Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center complex with the parking Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

Famous Venetian explorer and merchant Marco Polo visited Chengdu back in the 13th century, with the Corridor Bridge, Jinjiang River and the cloth of ancient Sichuan becoming the most colourful parts of his travelogue. In the 21st century, this Cultural Exchange City Reception Center becomes a crucial point within the Chengdu Tianfu Cultural and Creative City, as a platform for cultural exchange and interchange between the two distinct countries, as well as becoming the city's landmark.

The entrance | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
The entrance Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

The elements of the institutional architecture are extracted and abridged forms of ancient Roman arches, fluted columns and domes, Italian piazzas and traditional Chinese architecture. According to aoe, the pure white walls give off a three-dimensional, lit effect in the sunlight along with a minimal, modern aesthetic. The areas fitted with glass help establish a dialogue between the interior and scenery outside, “becoming a dynamic mural of the four seasons”.   

  • Inside the circular complex with European influences | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    Inside the circular complex with European influences Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography
  • The Italian plaza | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    The Italian plaza Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

The Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center is located about 36 kilometres from Chengdu’s centre, covering an area of 17,815 sqm, with construction covering an area of 2,107 sqm. Most of the complex is open to the sky, including the circular entrance plaza with a fountain in its midst. Spaces near the entrance fountain all pay heed to the Italian influences, while a cultural corridor and a pebbled path on an organic water body lead towards the eastern side of the complex, reminiscent of the Silk Route.

A cultural corridor and a pebbled path on water leads towards the eastern side of the complex, reminiscent of the Silk Route | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
A cultural corridor and a pebbled path on water leads towards the eastern side of the complex, reminiscent of the Silk Route Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

The larger, circular complex houses the indoor spaces as well as the entrance - three outdoor semi-circular, open-air piazzas, starting with the entrance fountain, the Italian piazza, and the outdoor theatre behind it, reproduce the typical, urban Italian piazza. The latter is surrounded by the deliberately ruined curved wall of Roman arches, while the three circular enclosed spaces house the meeting hall, a multi-functional hall, and a multimedia showroom.

View of the piazza from the cultural corridor | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
View of the piazza from the cultural corridor Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

A visitor can cross the gable to the Italian piazza and step onto a curved staircase that leads to one of the two circular roof gardens. One garden sits to the east and the other to the west, complemented by the contrast between natural vegetation and stone.

“By controlling the size of the circular wall openings, the light and darkness of the space are defined, while the meeting room is surrounded by water features and sculptures. The other five outdoor semi-circular walls are surrounded by greenery and mountains and face the beauty and might of nature,” shares aoe.

  • A circular fountain welcomes one into the entrance piazza | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    A circular fountain welcomes one into the entrance piazza Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography
  • The outdoor theatre with exposed Roman fluted columns | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    The outdoor theatre with exposed Roman fluted columns Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

A pond glitters in front of the entrance, with a string of white Chinese jade pavement steps resting on it, leading onto a sparse bamboo forest toward the east side of the complex, replete with a small Chinese Cultural Hall, a courtyard and a tearoom. A curved cultural corridor also leads towards the same, both paths symbolising the two Silk Roads between East and West, on land and on water.

The staggered building height allows one to stand at different levels and view various vistas unfolding in front of them, “creating a walk in the woods". The interior design allots the most flexible areas for exhibitions and displays and has fluid planning shaped by 10 curved walls of different sizes. These are divided into three levels according to the terrain, rising from the entrance hall to the interior space step by step. Two circular skylights adorn the vast, double-height entrance hall and exhibition space, suffusing the white space with a tinge of sky blue.

A circular skylight suffuses the white entrance hall with a tinge of blue | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
A circular skylight suffuses the white entrance hall with a tinge of blue Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

The building employs energy efficient, low-emissivity glass, locally sourced wood, and green roofs to reduce energy consumption and achieve a more rounded, sustainable design.

Besides the round solid wall, the interior and exterior boundaries are all made of glass, merging the outdoor landscape with the interior and emerging as a “framed scenery”. The exhibition hall, one of the key areas of the project, plays an important role in linking and integrating the built with the surrounding forest. aoe took extra care to make sure that the cultural centre’s architecture and nature harmonise, where the built has its own identity and does not encroach upon the natural environment it sits within.

  • The interiors are minimal and display fluid planning | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    The interiors are minimal and display fluid planning Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography
  • The central hall | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    The central hall Image: Courtesy of Arch-exist Photography

Filtered through the lens of contemporary minimalism, the Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center conceived by aoe displays a unique, aspirational design, imbuing and celebrating a mix of cultures and the coalesced, revived style of architecture that emerges because of it.

  • Conceptual sketches | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    Conceptual sketches Image: Courtesy of aoe
  • Sketches outlining the initial idea for the form | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    Sketches outlining the initial idea for the form Image: Courtesy of aoe
  • Site Plan | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    Site Plan Image: Courtesy of aoe
  • Ground Floor Plan | Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center by aoe | STIRworld
    Ground Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of aoe

Project Details

Name: Sino-Italian Cultural Exchange City Reception Center
Location: Chengdu, China
Site Area: 17,814.6 sqm
Site Coverage: 8.4 per cent
Gross Floor Area: 1,695.8 sqm
Landscaping Ratio: 66 per cent
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: aoe
Lead Architects: Wen Qun
Design Team: Ma Jianning, Fan Ruixue, Wang Ye, Chang Zhiyu, Pan Jichang, Li Xiangting, Lu Yu
Interiors: Zhu Dan, Du Jing, Liu Jingyi, Xue Yawen, Liu Chen
Clients: Tianfu Investment Group Co., LTD
Structure Engineer: CSCEC AECOM CONSULTANTS CO., LTD

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