by Meghna MehtaAug 06, 2020
Architectural firm LUO Studio has salvaged the remains of an abandoned residential plot to construct the Party and Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village, in under two months. The public community center features punctured grey bricks in its lower half, while tanned timber construction extends onto the abandoned concrete columns on its upper level.
Located at the entrance of the Wudang Mountains, the community center's design is part of the pilot programme to develop the area in order to promote its tourism and B&B business. To provide services to the villagers, it was crucial to find a way to build the center in a short span of time. “According to the plan, the plot where the original village committee office was situated and its surroundings will be transformed into a B&B reception demonstration area, so it was very urgent to relocate and construct a new village committee office,” mentioned the official statement.
China-based LUO Studio, led by founder Luo Yujie, studied the village’s conditions methodically, and suggested the adaptive reuse of an uninhabited residential plot that lay adjacent to the main road, at the intersection of two vital streets, as the village committee office’s new site. The construction there had begun but was put on hold for almost six years, leaving foundations and several construction columns unused and exposed. “Therefore, continuing construction work on this basis could save a lot of time,” LUO Studio explains. The village committee and sub district office agreed to their plan of salvaging the plot, which would result in reshaping the built street landscape along with activating the village’s dilapidated western area.
After on-site investigation, LUO studio concluded that the original concrete foundations were sufficient to meet the new construction requirements, despite being exposed for years. They share that “the design team set several principles for the subsequent construction: avoiding damage or alteration to the original structure, minimising extra load increased by the upper new construction, and effectively combining the forces of the new extension and the old construction.” Subsequently, the studio chose to insert a prefabricated timber framework on top of the existing foundations that significantly lowered the construction time and load bearing, in tandem with blending with the site’s context.
Despite the local rainy climate, the construction of the Party and Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village was carried out meticulously within two months. This was done by timely and disciplined design coordination. The design and construction took place almost at the same time, as the designers stayed on site, ensuring faster turnaround time, simplified drawing process and quicker construction. Prefabricated construction also reduced the construction time, which meant that the on-site work was mainly assembling and installation.
The original concrete column grid was incomplete and too wide for the timber to span overhead. To combat this, necessary columns were added at a two-meter distance, which also solved the unfinished grid between the north and south sides. The new column grid was linked to the wooden beams, which successfully integrated the concrete-column foundation and the wooden framework for the first storey. The Party and Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village thus sees an exposed work of wooden rafters looking over the concrete floors below, giving it a vibe of neo-vernacular architecture.
The ground floor of the community center is enclosed in masonry walls made of grey and glass bricks, bringing in daylight into its insides in a neat manner. The floor above hosts French windows that flood the interiors with sunlight, along with providing clear views to the world outside. The insides of the Party and Public Service Center has been designed to be as open and vast a possible, well-lit by the running skylight that splits its pitched roof, that slopes to the north and south sides.
The relatively narrow central space divides the north and south zones of the community center. The north is an open, public space while the south zone has areas for meetings and work. The central area has a washroom, and also hosts a mezzanine that is set up for storage. The entrance on the ground level leads one to the reception area, and further into a mediation room, while the upper floor hosts offices and conference areas.
The terrace lies on the south, opening up bountiful views to a Maoist temple, the village’s main area and the distant mountain range. An overhanging element creates a covered area at the entrance on the north, which faces the street. The village has a majority of elderly people, and so a ramp was incorporated at the main entrance as well for their ease. The alley outside that runs along the west side of the structure has been fitted with a long wooden bench for the villagers to rest upon, to meet casually and place public notice boards.
Glazed partitions and bookshelves further divide the interiors. Based on a principle of openness and sharing, areas dedicated to seating, reading and communication were created by the studio, to break the conventional layout of a village committee office. “Except for the conference area, the financial room and two added enclosed equipment rooms, all other spaces are open.” With the Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village, Zuo Studio addressed the lack of public buildings in the village, along with its scarce resources. “Through this project, LUO studio hopes that the building can not only meet the working needs of the village committee but also provide villagers with a more open and shared environment where they can establish more intimate interpersonal and community relationships.”
Name: Party and Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village
Location: Yuanheguan Village, Wudang Mountain Tourism Economic Zone, Danjiangkou, Shiyan City, Hubei Province, China
Area: 545.9 sqm
Client: Yuanheguan Village Committee
Architect: LUO studio
Designers (architecture, interior and landscape): Luo Yujie, Wei Wenjing
Construction firm: Hubei Yufeng Construction Engineering Co., Ltd.