WT Architects craft an “island hopping” agrotourism experience at Joybo Farm

Providing glimpses of idyllic rural living near Chongqing, China, for wine brand Joybo, the project comprises concrete, steel, and glass structures hinting at vernacular archetypes.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Dec 12, 2022

Even though the idea of introducing a hospitality design element to an agricultural facility is far from new, the unique experiences offered by such establishments, along with the pivotal role they play in local economies that rely on agrotourism, have made them lucrative ventures that, at times, are central to the tourism industries of certain rural regions. One such pastoral location in Jiangjin District, near the city of Chongqing, China, provides the setting for an agricultural complex, developed by Chinese architecture practice WT Architects for local brand Joybo. As an extension of a nearby winery producing traditional liquor, the venture, which occupies a stretch of farmland broken by the snaking trajectory of a local river, comprises a series of hospitality experiences centred around the brand’s production process, offering a glimpse of a lifestyle that is more in tune with nature.

Illustration of the “island hopping” concept | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
Illustration of the "island hopping" concept Image: © WT Architects

Speaking to STIR, the design team at WT Architects notes, "The site was a typical area in China's south-eastern countryside without too many advantages in terms of landscape or climate. On the other hand, the client was an emerging Chinese wine (Baijiu) brand named Joybo that has grown to be quite popular in recent years. We worked out the brief together with the client after getting involved at the very beginning when they had just got the land and were not very clear about the project’s scope. The original idea was to have their own farm accommodating a research team to increase the quality of the raw materials used in their products, which mainly comprised sorghum for Chinese wine and green plums for plum wine.” They continue, “Since the farm was not far from the winery, it could have also functioned as a reception for the brand to invite and host guests in a natural landscape rather than an industrial one.”

  • A concrete barn museum rests within a landscape of concentric sorghum fields, first encountered beyond the entrance to the development | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    A concrete barn museum rests within a landscape of concentric sorghum fields, first encountered beyond the entrance to the development Image: © INSPACE
  • The pure concrete structural form evokes traditional archetypes in a more abstract vein | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The pure concrete structural form evokes traditional archetypes in a more abstract vein Image: © INSPACE
  • Glass openings puncture the monomaterial volume, which was developed through a series of extrusions and subtractions | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    Glass openings puncture the monomaterial volume, which was developed through a series of extrusions and subtractions Image: © INSPACE

Amid a hilly expanse of land, the project’s site features a winding river, whose path slices through the countryside to form peninsulas jutting into the landscape. While observing this, the design team noticed an opportunity to curate and create a series of unique, immersive scenes that would engage with the flow of the terrain and build a conversation between the organic and man-made elements of the development. Adhering to the existing form of the land was a parameter that moulded this approach, yielding a structured landscape design described by the architects as "island hopping."

  • The lower glazed section of the structure features a perforated screen to filter light flowing into its volume | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The lower glazed section of the structure features a perforated screen to filter light flowing into its volume Image: © Arch-Exist
  • Inside, a sunken space features concentric steps that embed themselves into the agricultural landscape| Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    Inside, a sunken space features concentric steps that embed themselves into the agricultural landscape Image: © Arch-Exist
  • Conceptual form development diagram of the barn museum Image: © WT Architects

WT Architects explains, “Our idea was to fully harness the best resources available, most notably the peninsulas created by nearby rivers, to form different atmospheres, with varying degrees of privacy, size, and orientation. The concept of 'island hopping' comes from the way people travel by sea, jumping from one island to another. We planned the visit route based on the required functions, site areas, travel distance, and duration of stay. Each peninsula has a different function and atmosphere which guides people to feel nature in different ways." In total, the complex accommodates a barn museum, a retail space, a vegetable garden, another sunken garden, and a restaurant-café under its program.

Steel and glass-framed retail areas lie to one side of the barn museum | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
Steel and glass-framed retail areas lie to one side of the barn museum Image: © INSPACE

Furthermore, the aesthetic choices made while devising each building’s façade design, had to toe the line between contemporaneity and tradition, in order to seem at home within the countryside location. The architects relay, "We chose to seek out hidden connections between modernity and the naturalistic feel of the countryside, which led us to an aesthetic that we call 'unadorned'. Architectural forms speak to the context directly and present themselves in an unadorned fashion. Essentially solid massing with no unnecessary decorations. Pitched roofs express similarities to neighbouring farm houses. Rough concrete textures enhance the visibility of natural elements (rain, dust, dispersed seeds) on the buildings’ surfaces. Hence, we made the structures integrate into their surroundings more from a spiritual perspective rather than at the surface-level.”

  • Overhead view of the vegetable garden | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    Overhead view of the vegetable garden Image: © Arch-Exist
  • The sunken garden near the land tavern | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The sunken garden near the land tavern Image: © Joybo

Driving up to the complex, the gabled form of the concrete barn museum emerges from the greens of the sorghum field it is located in, with concentric rings of crops contrasting the weighty geometric design language of the structure, which bisects the space along its diameter. Reinterpreting the typology of a gable-roofed barn in a more abstract light, the structure’s form was developed through a series of extrusions and subtractions. Split into two wings—one at the front and the other at the rear—by a connecting single-storey block, the building itself rises to a height of three storeys. Cast-in-place concrete and stone compose the materiality of the barn museum, with the former exhibiting a wood grain texture that ties it to vernacular architectural norms in the region. Angled glass fenestrations allow light into the structure, with a large curtain wall decorating its rear façade and concrete screens shading its glazed lower half.

  • The cantilevering volume of the land tavern is perched atop V-shaped supports | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The cantilevering volume of the land tavern is perched atop V-shaped supports Image: © Arch-Exist
  • The lower volume features a multi-gable roof with large glazed openings overlooking the river | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The lower volume features a multi-gable roof with large glazed openings overlooking the river Image: © Arch-Exist
  • The land tavern’s layered cruciform volume is home to the restaurant and café | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The land tavern’s layered cruciform volume is home to the restaurant and café Image: © INSPACE

In the words of the Chinese architects behind the project, “When people drive to the farm and park their car at the first peninsula, the first impression can be overwhelming, standing inside the sorghum field surrounded by a spiritual architectural statement. By visiting the museum, people will gain a brief understanding of the brand and some insight into how they work. Users can cross a small bridge, walk into a small peninsula with a vegetable garden and fruit trees, or spend time identifying crops which have been placed to engage urbanites when they first encounter this stretch of farmland.” Inside the concrete barn museum, a sunken space at the centre features concentric steps, which descend into the agricultural landscape it sits inside. The monomateriality of the interior design generates an almost ‘spiritual’ atmosphere, where daylight trickles inwards through openings in a dramatic fashion.

  • The structure is dressed in a combination of light and dark wood  | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    The structure is dressed in a combination of light and dark wood Image: © Arch-Exist
  • Conceptual form development diagram of the land tavern | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
    Conceptual form development diagram of the land tavern Image: © WT Architects

"Concrete is not a rustic-feeling material, however, we also think concrete is the most ‘unadorned’ material to express our vision in this case. Together with steel and glass, we tried not to simply restore the countryside to what it was, but think about how to develop it and combine elements of modernity with the natural environment. The preconceived understanding of what the countryside should be like may not align with the result that finally materialises of its own accord. This attitude was one of the most important factors in the project’s success,” reveals WT Architects. Outside are a pair of circular retail areas framed in steel and glass, which host agricultural products. Enclosed by a two-metre concrete wall, they serve to balance the naturalistic tone of this area, providing a greenhouse-esque counterpoint to the pure concrete form at the centre of this part of the master plan. Beyond, a bridge over the waterway connects to the second peninsula, which is home to a vegetable garden, laid out in concentric rings—much like the sorghum fields of the preceding section. Continuity observed in elements of the complex’s design language maintains a sense of cohesion amid the assortment of disparate structures littered throughout the site.

View of the entrance to the land tavern | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
View of the entrance to the land tavern Image: © Arch-Exist

"Accessed via another bridge, the land tavern is located on the third peninsula, with a small hill at the back facing west—a wonderful place to have a cup of wine in the sunset and enjoy nature,“ mentions WT Architects. The building possesses a layered cross-shape consisting of a lower glazed volume with a multi-gable roof, and an elevated cuboidal volume intersecting it at right angles to cantilever over the former’s edge on V-shaped supports. Immersed in dialogue with the cardinal directions and their role in orienting the complex’s layout, the two volumes are clad in light and dark wood respectively, distinguishing them from the barn museum. The restaurant and café are housed within this structure, with glass walls overlooking the riverbank.

Exposed concrete defines much of the complex’s materiality, in combination with wood, glass, and steel | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
Exposed concrete defines much of the complex’s materiality, in combination with wood, glass, and steel Image: © INSPACE

"We didn't try to integrate everything into the natural environment through material or colour, even though this would have been the easiest way to do so. Neither the concrete museum design nor the black wooden tavern are native to these surroundings. However, when people come to the project, it is plain to see that everything is well composed in a manner that is devoid of any conflict,” explain the designers. This harmony is evident throughout every portion of the site, where the synergy between built and unbuilt, as well as the design vocabulary used to craft each structure elevates the ensemble beyond the sum of its parts.

The fourth and final peninsula is home to a sports field with a glass flower house | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
The fourth and final peninsula is home to a sports field with a glass flower house Image: © INSPACE

Regarding the last arm of the project, the architects add, “The fourth and final peninsula has a sports field with a glass flower house inside a beautiful herbaceous border. Everything here is fully open to the sky with a wide view to the south.” Hence, progressing from one peninsula to another affords a continuous stream of experiences, impressive in their diversity yet connected in spirit, to offer up the idealistic image of rural living that is promised to each guest at the outset. “Honestly, we can say this is possibly the smoothest project we ever had. The client fully trusted and supported us. The only thing that was not ideal was due to land policy and COVID-19, as the hotel had to become the second phase of the project and we are presently still modifying the design,” note the architects. With much more in store on the horizon, it is safe to say that Joybo Farm is set to become a wholly distinct experience of its own amid the sector of agrotourism, one that channels the ‘unadorned’ in a fashion that holistically reflects the way of life it advocates.

View of the glass flower house | Joybo Farm | WT Architects | STIRworld
View of the glass flower house Image: © Arch-Exist

Project Details

Name: Joybo Farm
Location: Baisha, Jiangjin District, Chongqing
Client: Chongqing Joybo Farm Farm Co., LTD
Architect: WT Architects
Built Up Area: 5000 sqm
Lead Architects: Weitao Li, Bo li
Team: Mingxin Ding, Siqi Yi, Ding Zhang, Deng Lin, Lingliang Yang, Ping Lv, Zhirui Zhang, Hongyu Chen, Yuxian Chen, Xuqing Xie, Hongqiao Shu, Yulian Wang
Master Plan: Shiquan Tao, Pengfei Tang, Nan Jiang, Fengjun Zhou, Ying Wen
Planning Consultant: Yu Fang, Yuanyuan Chen
Architecture and Landscape Architecture Construction Drawings: Chongqing Duxing Architectural Design Co. LTD
Construction Drawing In-Charge: Rong Yong, Langjie Ding
Lighting Design: Youwu Yuan
Landscape Architecture Consultant: Wanting Li
Fair-Faced Concrete Technical Consultant: Chen Jin of Yicheng Engineering
Plant Design: Mingxin Ding, Yao Jiang, Chaoye Chen, Xiu Liu
Interior Design: LEW STUDIO
Lead Interior Designer: Furong Liu
BIM Equipment Engineering Consultant: Zheng yu He, Tianqin Zhang
Project Management: Chongqing JOYBO’s Farm Farm Co., LTD
Site Manager: Kaijiang Sun
Construction: Chongqing Boda Construction Group Co. LTD
Project Manager: Chengcai Li
Timber Veneer Supplier: Shanghai Zhenzang Decoration Co., LTD
Project Inspector: Chongqing Xingda Construction Supervision Co. LTD

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