Project background: Old tobacco curing houses by the village
▼项目外观，external view of the project ©方立明
The project is located Dutuan Village, Xiyuan Township, Jianning County, Fujian Province, China. The base site is about 500 meters outside the entrance of the village, as a piece of land near the lotus pond by the roadside. There is a group of tobacco curing houses in the site, which have been idle for a long time due to the change of technology.
Tobacco curing house is a kind of typical production building in Fujian, in both small and big scales. There are two small traditional tobacco curing houses in the base, as well as a large-scale one. The large one is of masonry structure, which is composed of four independent and parallel rectangular curing spaces. The roofs are flat and connected with each other, which are used to store wood and other sundries. In order to keep the wood dry, there is an awning on the roof made of asbestos tiles. The tobacco curing houses face the lotus pond and back on the village road and mountain forest, so it has a good vision and momentum. In addition, a series of construction in Dutuan Village has also brought development opportunities to the site: the water conservancy project dredged the surrounding streams, renovated the water bank, and built a children’s play pool; a plank road in the lotus pond has been built to strengthen the accessibility and experience of agricultural landscape. All these changes have strengthened the vitality of Dutuan Village and increased its visitors. This project begins just under this background. It aims to supplement the lack of public service facilities in the village and provide public rest space for local residents and outsiders.
▼远景鸟瞰，distanced aerial view ©方立明
Spatial layout: Artistic deduction of production space
Two small traditional tobacco curing houses are reserved, and the design is mainly aimed at the large-scale one. The new building is built on the base of the old building, borrowing the space logic of the original building and performing it artistically. The architect has been particularly interested in the spontaneity of the construction of the tobacco curing houses. On the plane, the original building is composed of four parallel rectangular spaces. The size, shape and spacing of square boxes are completely consistent, forming a clear plane order. The vertical logic is also clear. The production units and storage units of the tobacco curing houses are located on the first floor and the nonstandard “second floor” space respectively. The awning is a particularly interesting element of the original building, which is a functional requirement, but the result also brings about changes in the spatial properties of the building. The awning breaks the sense of order in the production units of the tobacco curing houses with a super scale and random sense.
▼项目外观，雨棚覆盖盒子体块，external view of the project, the awning covering the box volumes ©方立明
The beginning of design is to learn from the spontaneous construction. The spatial logic of the new building follows the spatial pattern of the old tobacco curing houses: the building is also divided into two floors, and the first floor is composed of multiple individual blocks, namely, community centre, exhibition hall, meeting room and kitchen. If you look at it carefully, you will find that the combination of the blocks on the first floor is derived from the four cuboids of the original building. The architect reconstructed the order of the plane by reducing, increasing and combining the original blocks. The plane is no longer of the original homogeneous texture, but presents changes: the indoor space is more in line with the requirements of new functions, and the spaces between the blocks provide outdoor activity space for users. The facade of the first floor facing the lotus pond is made of high-rise wooden boards, which can be fully opened. People can enter the area from the southwest side of the building and enter the interior in a free way. The boundary between the interior and exterior is obscure, and the architect hopes to form a kind of free space.
▼设计生成，design generation ©三文建筑
The first and second floors are connected by an outdoor staircase in the northwest corner of the building. The large rectangular space on the second floor is a multi-functional hall, which can be used as a restaurant or gathering hall. The facade facing the lotus pond on the west side is made of large floor glasses, which leads the landscape into the interior. There is an outdoor platform in the southwest corner, which provides conditions for outdoor dining. The East facade is closed because it faces the road and forest. The dentate shape is a response to the original tobacco curing house. Another entrance on the second floor of the building is also set up on the east side, which is connected with the road by a bridge to solve the problem of people evacuation.
▼项目外观，两层空间由室外楼梯连接，external view of the project, outdoor staircase connecting the two floors ©方立明
Big roof: between rationality and absurdity
The important visual element of the new building is the exaggerated big roof. The treatment of this large roof is deliberately designed by the architect: super scale, asymmetric and even “grandiose”. It covers the building, provides a comfortable space under the eaves for the building, responding to the local rainy, humid and hot climate. At the same time, it is also a dramatic evolution of the original building awning. The cornice of the roof is not horizontal but cut by an arc. The south side of the roof is smaller, while the north side is large and long, which extends close to the ground. The design team jokingly call it “the elephant nose”. An outdoor staircase connecting the first and second floors passes through the roof, creating a dramatic space experience.
▼大屋顶下的空间，space under the large roof ©方立明
The roof is arc-formed and a steel structure. The steel columns supporting the roof continue the coexistence of rationality and absurdity, which are not vertical, but inclined and not parallel. Walking under the eaves and between the pillars, there is a feeling of walking in the bamboo forest. This sense of dislocation is exactly what architect hopes to bring. Columns are divided into real load-bearing components and false load-bearing components, distinguished by different colors. The addition of color also brings a sense of fashion and unfamiliarity to the columns, and echoes with another “exaggeration” treatment: the color-glazed roof tiles.
▼屋顶由倾斜的钢柱支撑，roof supported by inclined steel columns ©方立明
▼室外楼梯，outdoor staircase ©方立明
Glazed tile: A practice of rural common materials
Bright color-glazed tiles are used on the roof, which is an artistic misappropriation of a large number of glazed tiles used on the new built houses in rural China since the 1990s. Glazed tiles originated from encaustic tiles, which were only used in palaces and temples before 1912, and not allowed in residential buildings. After the 1990s, with the improvement of living standards and the reduction of production costs, glazed tiles have been widely used in rural houses in China. In addition to the fact that glazed tiles are stronger and more waterproof than traditional drum tiles. And their shiny appearance, bright colors, and the symbolism used to be exclusively applicable by royal families and governments are all the reasons why people like to use it. But in the academic circles, especially in the eyes of architectural and cultural scholars, glazed tile is one of the important killers to destroy the traditional rural style. Along with it, there are two other “killers”— ceramic tile and colored steel shed. This kind of aesthetic difference makes the simple and traditional materials that architects like not accepted by ordinary villagers, and the “shining” materials selected by villagers because of their functional needs and the need to show their wealth are difficult to be recognized by scholars. This is a question worth thinking about in itself.
▼屋顶设计过程，design process of the roof ©三文建筑
The architect hopes to explore the possibility of the contemporary aesthetic of glazed tile in modern rural architecture. Whether glazed tile can be used in the hall of elegance and become a material that not only meets the villagers’ pursuit of “shining” materials, but also has contemporary aesthetics? Of course, this is bound to be a bold, even risky experiment.
▼屋顶图案，roof pattern ©三文建筑
For the glazed tiles of this project we adopted the most common products which were purchased from the well-known online shopping platform in China, Taobao, with universality. In the design, the architects have made many attempts to discuss the color and combination of glazed tiles. Finally, the colors chosen for the tiles are black, gray, red, orange, dark green and light blue. The upper part of the roof is mainly made of black tiles, which makes the topological relationship between the building and the bamboo forest behind it as black and green, which is consistent with the relationship between the roof of traditional buildings and the mountain forest. The tile surface of other colors is mainly concentrated in the front of the roof and cornice, which makes the facade formed by the downward looking roof have distinctive characteristics when the building is observed from the normal perspective. The arrangement of glazed tiles is not completely random, and the architect patterned it. The prototype of the pattern comes from the aerial photos of the surrounding lotus ponds and rice fields, but with abstraction and adjustment, making the construction relatively more convenient.
▼鸟瞰，彩色釉面瓦屋顶，aerial view of the colored roof composed of glazed tiles ©方立明
▼彩色屋顶与周边自然环境，colored roof and surrounding natural environment ©方立明
Interior: New space and old memory
▼旋转门模糊室内外界限，rotatable partitions blurring the boundary between the interior and the outdoor environment ©方立明
The indoor treatment is not complicated. The building is divided into two floors. The first floor is composed of several small spaces. In addition to the kitchen, they all have a strong public nature. The community center is connected with the exhibition hall, which can not only serve the local people, but also provide the rest space for the outsiders. In the exhibition hall, the space pattern and some components of the original tobacco curing houses are retained, such as the wooden frames for hanging tobacco and the opening for observing the fire. On this basis, an exhibition table was added to display agricultural products and handicrafts related to the region, providing conditions for the future operation of the building. There is a service desk in the community center. The indoor is relatively free, and tables and chairs can be placed, which provides the possibility for community communication. For the meeting room, the type of service has been increased and can also be used as a small private room to meet the different demands of future users. It is worth noting that the indoor and outdoor space on the first floor has fluidity, and the rotatable wooden partition walls make the internal and external spaces easily connected together. Thus, the first floor space of the building completes the construction of fluidity, scalability and ambiguity.
▼一层社区中心，community center on the first floor ©方立明
▼展览空间，exhibition space ©方立明
The second floor is a multi-function hall. The wall on the east side of the building is concave and convex, corresponding to the wall and glass. This is the memory expression of the four parallel production spaces of the original tobacco curing houses. The interior walls are covered with orange tiles and extend to the floor and terminate at the structural columns. Terrazzo is used in other areas of the ground, which divides the interior space of the building into open and wrapped areas, corresponding to the subsequent furniture layout. The ceiling maintains the arc shape of the building roof, and the bamboo mat is used as the decoration material for the ceiling, which reflects the regionality. The lighting treatment is a little “capricious”. The architect uses linear lamps for basic lighting, but the lamps are irregularly arranged under the ceiling to form a sense of composition, which adds a contemporary atmosphere to the interior of the building.
▼二层餐厅，透过整面玻璃门欣赏室外景色，restaurant on the second floor with view to the outdoor scenery through the floor to ceiling glass doors ©方立明
Conclusion and reflection
The design and construction of this project lasted for 3 years. Especially thanks to the trust and support of the owner, so that the architect could carry out a research design. The problem of rural architecture in China is complex. On the aesthetic level, it is difficult to judge the right and wrong of traditional and contemporary, style and practicality, rural original ecological form and foreign invasion form with simple logic. While criticizing the destruction of traditional rural features, architects and scholars seldom put themselves in the position of thinking about why the rural aborigines choose the forms and materials of urbanization and modernity, and rarely think about the internal logic of these forms and materials from the perspective of rural sociology and economics, and they do not “stoop” to look at their value from the perspective of folk aesthetics.
▼夜景，night view ©方立明
In this design, the architect tries to learn the language of space design from the rural production buildings, and learn the application of decoration from the rural contemporary common materials – glazed tiles and ceramic tiles. But this kind of study is not a simple copy, or a total negation or affirmation, but a re-creation with criticism.
▼一层平面图，first floor plan ©三文建筑
▼二层平面图，second floor plan ©三文建筑
Project name: Dutuan Villagers Public Service Center
Location: Dutuan Village, Xiyuan Township, Jianning County, Fujian Province, China
Owner: People’s Government of Xiyuan Township
Principal architect: He Wei
Team members: Chen Long, Li Qiang, Song Ke, Cao Shiqing, Zhao Xinze, Wu Lijun(intern)
Structure consultant: Pan Congjian
Architectural and interior design: 3andwich Design/He Wei Studio (www.3andwichdesign.com)
Building area: 350 sqm
Design time: 2017-2019
Completion time: July, 2020
Photography: Fang Liming, He Wei