Taoist principles inspire Wutopia Lab’s design for Aluminum Mountain, China

Facing Mt. Luofu and Taiping Mountain in Canton, Guangdong, the Chinese medicine exhibition centre utilises ‘silvering’ aluminium boards to mimic the mountainscape.

by STIRworld Published on : Sep 09, 2020

“One sea and three mountains”, a classical Taoist meme, came to the minds of architects at Wutopia Lab when they first visited the site where Aluminum Mountain has just been constructed. The Shanghai-based architecture firm proposed the traditional Chinese medicine exhibition centre in Canton, Guangdong, facing Mt. Luofu and Taiping Mountain in the south.

An artificial mountain bearing a presentation centre and a remodelled fish pond ‘complete’ the mystical scenery with the other two mountains in the backdrop.

Circles and cones form the three ‘artificial mountains’ | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
Circles and cones form the three ‘artificial mountains’ Image: CreatAR Images

The Taoist influence further extends into the form of the exhibition centre, engaging circles and cones to form the three ‘artificial mountains’. Continuous circles have been used to shape the underground space - a "bubble-like maze" that includes the foyer, display zone, video room, conference room, model exhibition space, art gallery, office and toilets. “We hoped that visitors could lose their sense of time and space. In a layered maze, we might feel that time was slowed,” explains a statement from the firm.

Continuous circles were used to shape the underground
Continuous circles were used to shape the underground "bubble-like maze" Image: CreatAR Images

The highest mountain among the three contains the triple-height central exhibition space, while the other two perform as sinology space and VIP rooms. A water path reaches the third mountain, wind blowing along with it into the ground floor.

A water path reaches the third mountain | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
A water path reaches the third mountain Image: CreatAR Images

A round reception greets visitors who can climb into a red boat at a dock enveloped by U-shape glass. A flowery route dotted with round islands finally directs them to the bottom of the mountain. A staircase and tunnel bring guests into the interior of the mountain, from where they can marvel at the views of the earthly paradise. Through the artificial fog, they can climb to the peak of Aluminum Mountain by ascending a spiral staircase.

  • Visitors take red boats along a water path to the medicine centre | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
    Visitors take red boats along a water path to the medicine centre Image: CreatAR Images
  • A section cut through the site | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
    A section cut through the site Image: Courtesy of Wutopia Lab

Mesmerised by the sight of the floating Mt. Luofu, Wutopia Lab designed the structure to waver over its site by using luminous films on the bottom to give the appearance of a floating mountain when switched on.

Luminous films give the impression of a ‘floating’ mountain | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
Luminous films give the impression of a ‘floating’ mountain Image: CreatAR Images

All the functions of the 88 sqm space were grouped underground, topped with a massive metal roof carried by six concrete columns. 30 tons of iron truss has been used to support the 10-metre cantilever and the hovering peaks. An independent 11.9-metre spiral staircase structure rises from the basement to the top.

A spiral staircase structure rises from the basement to the top | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
A spiral staircase structure rises from the basement to the top Image: CreatAR Images

‘Silvering’ aluminium boards coat the structure, its mass and texture appearing to dissolve to form the ideal foil for the lightness of the mountain. A gradient of boards with perforation rates of 45, 60 and 70 make the mountain seem dense on the top to sparse on the bottom. The material also enables the mountain to lose its otherwise massive look when observed from certain angles. At night, the illuminated mountain leaves its materiality behind to resemble an ethereal lamp.

‘Silvering’ aluminium boards coat the structure | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
‘Silvering’ aluminium boards coat the structure Image: CreatAR Images

A ‘subtly dyed’ mountain characterises the insides, echoing the surface of Mt. Luofu. Taking hints from Chinese Ink painting, concrete and colours of grey and white are used inside the mountain to present a continuous interior landscape, an effect unattainable with marble and metal.

  • A gradient of boards make the mountain seem dense on the top to sparse on the bottom | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
    A gradient of boards make the mountain seem dense on the top to sparse on the bottom Image: CreatAR Images
  • Concrete and colours of grey and white are used inside | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
    Concrete and colours of grey and white are used inside Image: CreatAR Images

The Aluminum Mountain was given the name, 'the Third Mountain'. “It should present a lifestyle that was lost upon us, some dreams that we urban residents are dying to realise. In a humanistic space full of symbolic meanings, a space built with modern technology while exhibiting traditional wisdom, we are supposed to feel happiness. To bring a beautiful life: such is the meaning of the third mountain, a celestial palace of our time.” say its creators.

  • The Aluminum Mountain was given the name 'the Third Mountain' | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
    The Aluminum Mountain was given the name 'the Third Mountain' Image: CreatAR Images
  • An exploded axonometric view of Aluminum Mountain | Aluminum Mountain | Wutopia Lab | STIRworld
    An exploded axonometric view of Aluminum Mountain Image: Courtesy of Wutopia Lab

Project Details

Project Name: The Aluminum Mountain
Design Firm:Wutopia Lab
Location: Guangdong, China
Area: 2453 sqm
Project time: 2020.06
Chief Architect: Yu Ting
Project Architect: Xu Yunfang, Li Hao

(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, intern at stirworld.com)

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