by Jincy IypeJul 05, 2023
The architect Antoni Gaudí once said, "Curves belong to God and lines belong to man." What about a slant line? A captivating question in the minds of designers, Wang Zhike and Li Xiaoshui from Topway Space design inspires the interiors of the Spanish GOJE Slate Exhibition Hall in Guangdong, China. From its diamond-shaped structure and oblique deconstruction, the space embodies an undefined form blending functionality and artistry to create an immersive experience. "The oblique shape of an object has multiplicity from the perspective of physics; it represents both extreme instability and extreme stability. For example, the twin leaning towers of Bologna in Italy and the Leaning Tower of Pisa represent instability while the Pyramids of Egypt represent stability. A unique spirit of the space is formed by constructing and dividing, with an undefined oblique line,” explains Topway Space Design on the design dichotomy.
Breaking away from the traditional horizontal and vertical construction of buildings, an element that immediately captures your attention when entering the lobby is an inspiring display of the Spanish slate, reconstructed using a technique known as “slash cutting”. The process involves the careful splitting of the slate along its natural grain, creating a series of unique and irregular surfaces. Representing an extreme processing technique similar to cutting a diamond, each surface presents a different light state and showcases the beauty in geometry.
By cutting the space through various scales of oblique shapes, different volumes are broken down and recombined. The interplay of light and shadow on the slash-cut slate creates a dynamic visual experience as the surface seems to ripple and dance with every movement. The language of geometry constructs a space that is interlaced and full of contradictions. The space is no longer envisioned as a traditional material exhibition centre, but more like a three-dimensional art gallery pieced together by fragments of memory.
Borrowing light by digging from the wall, an interplay of natural light and shadows add depth and dimension to the space. The original building had windows only on the west-facing side, while the other three sides were enclosed. The designers have optimised and transformed the building structure by opening a three-storey hollow atrium at the east-side corner of the exhibition space and cutting a window of the third floor to bring in sunlight. The hollow ceiling uses the design of an inverted triangle while the sloping surface facing the window outside uses mirrored material. The light was refracted twice through the reflection effect. Sunlight pours in through the beams and columns, making the entire space feel sacred.
Inspired by what Prometheus said, “This is an exploration of a process, mysterious, cramped, dark and almost an oppressive journey, all for reaching God in the end. The shocking, magnificent divine light, appearing before us at the last moment”. By alternating the use of natural light and combining it with reasonable circulation, the designers create an open relationship with space, taking people back to the most primitive and effective way of communication. This creates a feeling of being ‘here and there’, making it a surreal experience.
Standing in the light gallery, away from the hustle and bustle, one can feel a sense of wandering within the space. The separated and cut space conveys an impression of entering a realm beyond time. The wooden ceiling is divided diagonally, running through the entire living, dining, and kitchen space, making the boundaries of the space blurred. The cement slate gives the space a minimalistic feel. The morning and evening light creates different feelings of warmth and coldness in different seasons, allowing people to encounter distinct emotions.
Speaking on the symphony of space and light, the designers say, “In the space interwoven with light and shadow, visitors become a part of time and space. Space not only brings us peace and comfort but also calms our minds. Thus, we are able to re-examine the memories and emotions that have been neglected for a long time and rethink the meaning and value of life. This space encourages people to contemplate and think deeply about the important things in life, finding a deeper understanding and realisation for themselves."
Passing through a narrow oblique corridor, visitors enter an art gallery where the ceiling and walls have a diamond-cutting design. The wall uses slates with a dark volcanic texture and metal materials. The LED screen in the centre of the gallery extends the space into the distance. As a part of the building's skin, slates form a symbiotic relationship with the building. Due to the variety of textures and materials, slates can be combined with different architectural spaces, presenting a thousand different postures. These postures form varied spatial emotions in different patterns of light and shadow.
Walking out of the narrow passage and passing through a hole stacked with rocks, a vast expanse of scenery unfolds before our eyes. This space is designed as an outdoor courtyard, with a plain cement slate path and a tea pavilion at the centre. Quite the opposite of its interiors, the infusion of natural light imbues the courtyard with tranquillity and poetic beauty. This space provides a place for people to get close to nature, allowing them to relax their mind and body.
“From the art gallery to the outdoor courtyard, we have created an artistic conception of 'every step reveals a scenic view, while winding paths lead to secluded tranquillity.' Through the winding and twisting garden-style circulation route, the space is full of mystery, stimulating people's imagination and leading them to gradually explore and discover. Each step presents different scenery and landscape, allowing people to feel the changes and flow of the space,” the designers explain their technique of creating an immersive experience.
By using forms of building blocks, spatial deconstruction and geometric segmentation, the designer duo have created a sensory space where art, design and technology coalesce, offering an experience that transcends the boundaries of tradition by blending multiple functions such as scene experience, art appreciation, and social contact.
Name: Spanish GOJE Slate Exhibition Hall
Location: Guangdong, China
Space Design: Topway Space Design (www.topwayspace.com)
Chief designers: Wang Zhike, Li Xiaoshui
Design Team: Lan Jingwei, Lu Zhongwen, Luo Hongli, Liu Zhu, Zhou Shenghua, Huang Jinghe, Zhou Yingxian
Decoration design: Topway Space Design (www.topwayspace.com)
Project Area: 1000 sqm