Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake by Archemit: a union of the past and present

With an urban renewal project for Chengdu Qinglong Lake Wetland Park, the Chinese firm interweaves history into the fabric of urbanisation.

by Anushka SharmaPublished on : Jul 22, 2022

The assumed discord between culture and modernisation is a persisting dilemma that city managers, architects and scholars encounter time and again. How can history and culture that mesh together to compose the soul of a city's being, withstand the ever-increasing torrents of commercialisation and technological strides? Archermit, an architecture and design firm based in Chengdu in China, reconnoitres the overlooked propensity the supposed adversaries have for one another. In their recent urban renewal project at Chengdu City Ecological Park - Agricultural Science Popularisation and Education Base, located in the second phase of Chengdu Qinglong Lake Wetland Park, the firm morphs the deserted building into an agricultural science popularisation and education base for visitors. The architects, in a journey of revitalisation, pursue the evasive equilibrium between the past and the present, consequently sculpting a solution for the future.

  • The relationship between the building and the surrounding parks, farmland and woods | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    The relationship between the building and the surrounding parks, farmland and woods Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • The project unfolds at Chengdu City Ecological Park | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    The project unfolds at Chengdu City Ecological Park Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Architectural complex integrating the old and new | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Architectural complex integrating the old and new Image: Courtesy of Archermit

Chengdu 'park city' rearranged its city space around the Chengdu beltway - a 'Green belt' that goes through 78 bridges interlacing the entire 121 ecological parks around the city - a bridge between natural resources and the city life. Planned as a wetland park, the site and the abandoned buildings it housed, previously the Qinglonghu Primary school and a breeding farm, implored a change of their identity to invite visitors to the park. The built forms showcased a range of structural plight from some parts being a potential safety hazard to others, needing minute repairs to regain functionality. The landscape reflected a similar abandonment with overgrown weeds and damaged road surfaces. With site analysis at the crux of their project, Archermit seeks an answer where 'maintaining' and 'renovating' juxtapose in the intricate site situation.

  • The partially well-preserved buildings of the breeding farm before transformation | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    The partially well-preserved buildings of the breeding farm before transformation Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Severely damaged buildings of the farm before reconstruction | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Severely damaged buildings of the farm before reconstruction Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Overgrown weeds in the primary school before reconstruction | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Overgrown weeds in the primary school before reconstruction Image: Courtesy of Archermit

For the architects, the intent encapsulated making the decaying red brick house glow with new vigour through their design. Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake, with space requisites of a science and research experience, features circulation that progressively discerns the architectural image. To ensconce a sense of place where the old and the new are alternating and flowing freely, the site was made accessible to the visitors. The extraction of farm crop growth status as prominent design elements and materials such as polycarbonate panels, ceramic tile and red brick provide the construction a breath of fresh air.

  • Free and open site formed after the demolition of the wall | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Free and open site formed after the demolition of the wall Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Concrete blocks from the abandoned building reused for landscape | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Concrete blocks from the abandoned building reused for landscape Image: Courtesy of Archermit

Waste and debris from the old construction, symbols of the site’s history, have been used as the raw material for this project. The collapsed buildings and red brick walls relinquished their verticality to flow through the entirety of the site as horizontal pavement. Similarly, the discarded concrete blocks were broken down and transformed into landscape stepping stones. The enclosing walls of the site were erased, enticing tourists from all directions to take this tour.

  • Polycarbonate panels, red brick, and terracotta tiles are among the materials used for the transformation of buildings | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Polycarbonate panels, red brick, and terracotta tiles are among the materials used for the transformation of buildingsImage: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Old brick and polycarbonate board form a virtual and solid, new and old interwoven symbiosis building | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Old brick and polycarbonate board form a virtual and solid, new and old interwoven symbiosis building Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • The mottled red bricks on the ground form a common spatial sequence with the empty and solid tiles on the roof | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    The mottled red bricks on the ground form a common spatial sequence with the empty and solid tiles on the roof Image: Courtesy of Archermit

Architectural renovation, on the other hand, unfolds as a journey of paying heed to whether the material displays compatibility with the original building, economic viability and suitability. Based on the memory of the site, polycarbonate panels, red brick and terracotta tiles, among other materials, carry out the targeted transformation of the buildings. In another attempt of making the site more inclusive and open, the texture of the material is light and transparent. By embracing polycarbonate panel, a material widely used in rural and agricultural supporting facilities, Archermit aims to achieve high performance at a low cost, simultaneously respecting and coordinating with the rural scenery. Red brick architecture and terracotta tiles, the blood and memory of the original building, were maintained throughout the transition.

  • Preserved triangular timber roof | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Preserved triangular timber roof Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Hazy beauty of metal mesh and polycarbonate panels under light | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Hazy beauty of metal mesh and polycarbonate panels under light Image: Courtesy of Archermit

The collapsed building was demolished to build a new agricultural machinery exhibition shed on site. Transparent polycarbonate panels and delicate white steel structure create a crystal clear, light and soft open space. The two structures that were retained owing to their good condition assumed the form of the exhibition halls of modern agriculture and farming culture. Partially repaired red brick masonry replaced grey terracotta tiles on the roof and polycarbonate panels that veil the fenestration and a part of the ceiling, establishing a dialogue between the old and the new in a harmonious composition of light haze and heaviness.

  • Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake: Site layout | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake: Site layout Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake: Renovation details | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake: Renovation details Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake: Structural repairs | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake: Structural repairs Image: Courtesy of Archermit

A vital juncture of the project wherein the very mission of the design is channelled to sculpt its visual focus is the levitating fragmented mass of steel and polycarbonate panels between the two pre-existing buildings. The passel of transparent cubes of varying sizes in their ascent towards the sky mirrors the image of seeds and Kongming lanterns in tandem. During the day the cubes are like seeds rising from cracks in the red brick and piercing through the air, shining brightly against the sun. At night, warm yellow light through the polycarbonate board boxes induces a surreal, floating feeling like Kongming lanterns suspended in the sky.

  •  Transparent cubes of steel and polycarbonate panels between the two buildings creating image of 'floating seeds' and Kongming lanterns | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Transparent cubes of steel and polycarbonate panels between the two buildings creating image of 'floating seeds' and Kongming lanterns Image: Courtesy of Archermit
  • Crystal clear floating seeds and the blue sky reflect | Floating seeds of Qinglong Lake | Archermit | STIRworld
    Crystal clear floating seeds and the blue sky reflect Image: Courtesy of Archermit

What stands out in this urban renewal project is how Archermit meticulously underlines the similarities and differences of 'old', 'broken' and 'dilapidated', terms that are used interchangeably more often than not, and adopts strategies apropos of the same. 'Old' is antiquated, oozing with history, 'broken' signifies the damaged and incomplete, possible to revive with repair, and 'dilapidated' is irretrievably gone. In the face of irreversible urbanisation, Archermit chooses to highlight humanity, presenting architecture as an epic written with wisdom and passion. Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake is a seed the firm sowed in the process of urban renewal, an expression of the firm's approach and thinking aiming to arouse more urban participants to think about the city they live in. With their architectural manifesto, Archermit urges the world to preserve the invaluable urban culture in the process of urbanisation in their individual way, one step at a time.

Project Details

Name: Floating Seeds of Qinglong Lake
Location: Chengdu, China
Area: Chengdu City Ecological Park
Year of completion: 2022
Architect: Archermit
Design team: Feng Yutao, Song Zhiying, Yang Rui, Gou Yuanjun, He Yi, Zhao Yaxian, Liu Zixuan, Hu Qinmei Kangying, Hu Jia, panxia, Huqiang, zhailingxi, Wang Chao
Construction drawing design team: Chengdu Meisha Architectural Design Co., LTD
Exhibition design and construction: Shanghai UKER Architectural Design Co., Ltd, Zhongcheng Difeng Construction Engineering Co., LTD

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