by Jerry ElengicalApr 30, 2022
Beijing-based practice YI+MU Design Office has renovated and updated the Fourth National Cotton Factory of Jinan (formerly known as the Chengtong Yarn Mill) into an exhibition, sales, and community centre that celebrates the region’s historical importance in China's textile industry. Once a major hub for cotton and textile production, Jinan - the capital of China’s Shandong Province - was home to a quartet of state-owned factories that were collectively known as the 'Four Golden Flowers'. Lufeng Yarn Mill, the first of the four, was established in 1919 to become the First National Cotton Factory of Jinan. Two more factories were swiftly set up in the ensuing period of infrastructure development, which eventually concluded with the opening of the Chengtong Yarn Mill as the fourth such facility in 1932. Unfortunately, circumstances in the years since have forced all of the factories to either cease their operations or be torn down.
At present, the remaining structures have become important city landmarks. Having retained much of its original layout, workshops, and style, the Fourth National Cotton Factory now serves as a monument to the rise and gradual decline of textile design and production in this particular locality of northeastern China. The designers mention in an official release, “Even though times have changed and the enterprise has closed, the citizens of Jinan still refer to the structure as the Fourth National Cotton Factory. It carries their many collective memories of the textile industry and strong sentiments toward a bygone era.”
With this in mind, the Jinke Group - a Chinese real estate company - commissioned YI+MU Design Office to revitalise this metaphorical mausoleum to the city’s once-thriving textile industry. They handed them the remains of the factory for an adaptive reuse venture that would create a new commercial sales centre as well as a community activity space, breathing life into the structure’s desolate halls once more. Reflecting on their initial objectives for the venture, YI+MU Design Office relays that "the goal was to retain the traces of history and inject fresh vitality into the new project." While surveying the building, the designers were impressed by the marks of history embedded into its mottled walls and dilapidated spaces, viewing them as a time capsule from the heyday of Jinan’s textile industry, whose optimism and passion has long since been washed away by the tides of time. In their view, the facility’s serrated skylights and high-ceilinged main textile workshop also offered opportunities to merge the old and new, in a fresh example of cultural architecture built upon the foundations of preserved heritage.
Aspiring to evoke the emotional impressions of minute changes brought on by the passage of time - such as alterations in light - the designers arrived at a theme titled 'Time, Light and Traces'. Under their scheme, they placed partitions composed of textile spindles stacked in rectilinear grids throughout the structure’s functional areas, as a visual motif that would tie the design to its historical roots. This was done to encourage and invite visitors to explore and experience the textile-producing traditions of the region in a more intimate manner. Over 5,000 such spindles have been arranged in stacked rows that impart a strong sense of spatial order - similar to how they were placed on the factory’s once-roaring looms.
"Apart from the function of a sales centre, the venue is also intended to serve multiple other functions built around the theme of textile culture," states YI+MU Design Office. They add, "It is an interactive complex for hosting small exhibitions, opportunities in art education, cultural exchange salons, hands-on learning experiences, DIY workshops, family and community events, a textile library, and a marketplace for cultural and creative products." Through this multifunctionality, the firm hopes to provide residents and tourists with a space “that will help them gain an in-depth understanding of traditional and modern Chinese textile spinning, weaving, and dyeing techniques via a variety of activities.”
First encountered at the entrance area, the textile display runs across its massive enclosing walls, interjected by windows overlooking landscaped spaces outside. The subtle interior design balances the monumentality of this element with a system of metallic beams and columns that reinforce the existing structure while exuding a materiality that complements the warehouse-style red brick walls around it. Furthermore, wood finishes have been imparted on the floors and ceilings "to soften the hard and cold industrial style, lending a cosy, laid-back intimacy to the environment," explain the designers. The result is warm and inviting, ushering guests beyond towards a display space, whose floors and ceilings are dressed with a light wood finish that is present throughout the remainder of the design.
"In the front area’s textile exhibition hall, we aimed to use modern art techniques to arrange objects, literature, scenes, illustrations, models, and multimedia presentations of textile culture based on time and location. We also wanted to show the historical context of development in various fields of textiles, weaving, and dyeing, as well as a myriad of historical documents pertaining to the former Fourth National Cotton Factory,” mention the designers. Suspended above this display space is a stunning art installation composed of 1500 suspended weaving shuttles, resembling delicate shards of glass, frozen in time. Additionally, the designers explain, “The walls on both sides have been made into backlit displays, armed with the profound visual impact of raw textile materials and a variety of fabrics which form a narrative.”
Beyond this, the vast central hall reveals itself, containing a sunken negotiation lounge at its heart, bordered by seating spaces and display areas to one side. Alternatively, a bar area featuring a similar spindle display on its top shelf runs along its other end, leading towards offices and more display spaces towards the other extremity of the structure. Massive trusses line the ceilings, adding to the industrial-style atmosphere while framing clerestory windows that bathe the space in an abundance of natural light. Providing a link to the structure’s upper level, an amphitheatre-like series of wooden steps occupies the space immediately beyond the negotiation area. The floor above hosts additional offices, a reading room, VIP room, and a play area for children among other auxiliary spaces.
Following the successful conclusion of their endeavour in restoration architecture, YI+MU Design Office shares, “The shift of our perceptions is mainly about the changing of our minds.” They continue, “After all the design and renovation, we imagine the former Fourth National Cotton Factory will continue to stand the tests of the ages and the liveliness of this world. History as it happened will gradually fade into distant memory, but new hopes will forever be ignited in our hearts, guiding us to better face the chaotic and unknown future.”
Name: Jinan Bocuiminghu Textile Culture and Arts Exhibition Hall
Location: Jinan, Shandong, China
Area: 1300 sqm
Year of Completion: 2021
Interior Design: YI+MU Design Office
Interior Soft Decoration Design: YI+MU Design Office
Chief Designer: Yi Chen, Muchen Zhang
Design Team: Wujie Li, Zhiqiang Yang, Yi Xiao, Yanrong Yang, Xu Zhang,Huize Qiu
Soft Decoration Deepening and Implementation: Panshine Design
Textile Professional Consultant and Execution of Art Gallery Furnishings: Cao Zhen Studio