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Material and Detail NO. 1 introduces Dong Gong | Vectors Architect. More: Vector Architects on gooood.
出品人：向玲 Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑团队：向玲，苏昕，朱坤宇，凌犀（实习），陈曼颖（实习） Editor: Xiang Ling, Su Xin, Zhu Kunyu, Ling Xi (Intern), Chen Manying (Intern)
In 2016, we visited Vector Architects’ Design Studio, especially the material room and model showroom, and interviewed Dong Gong for his insights regarding materials and detailed design.
▽ 视频 Video （全文深度采访见下方文字。视频为6分40秒精华版，建议选择蓝光1080P观看。）
gooood x Dong Gong
We see that you take material application and tectonics into account for you initial architecture concept, even draw detail structure sketches for each project. We are curious about the reason why you adopt this working method?
Dong Gong: First of all, we (Vector Architects) always concern about material application and tectonics. Personally, I am against that the tectonic drawings are to be considered in the construction documents design phase.. It is the same as establishing the relationship amongst space, materials, and human body, or exploit wind and light condition. That is to say, it is necessary to implement material and tectonic ideas at conceptual design stage. This is why we sketch details at the very beginning.
There are several situations relating to considerable modification. Sometimes, the construction budget and the ability of the construction team do not meet our requirement. Or perhaps the material we choose does not match the local environment. And sometimes we might be hasty at the beginning, then we can only tackle with the troubles on site when we encounter them. But this does not hinder our working method. In a word, it is essential to think about tectonics and material application at the very beginning of a project.
▽ 海边图书馆草图到最终方案的演变，From Sketch to Design, Seashore Library. MORE: 海边图书馆 Seashore Library Photo by 苏圣亮 Su Shingling（右 Right）
Vector Architects have professional material library in the office. Meanwhile, most of detailed structures and tectonics are designed by your own. Could you share some experiences with us about accumulating materials and tectonics knowledge?
Dong Gong: To be honest, we are not experts on collecting materials, and we do not have a professional collecting system yet. We still need to accumulate more materials gradually. But for me, each tectonic detail is unique. There is no single detail design directly taken from others by us. As the whole building system is the analogue of the human body with its own structure (skeleton), vein and skin, each tectonic detail is exclusive for one system, which is impossible to be just duplicated. On the contrary, every tectonic design has to be inspired from its own project.
▽ 直向办公室中的材料库，The Material Library in Vector Architect’s Office
▽ 直向办公室中的节点草图，Detail Sketches at the Office Photo Credit: gooood
How do you consider material application when involving into architecture design?
Dong Gong: The requirement for materials such as the transparency or the weight of it comes from our concept design in each project. And of course when the project develops, there will be other constraints impacting the tectonic methods.
▽ 直向建筑近来常用材料：玻璃砖、金属网、竹钢、混凝土等，Some of the most-used materials by Vector Architects recently: Glass Block Masonries, Metal Mesh, Laminated Bamboo Slates and Exposed Concrete and so on. Photo by 夏至 Xia Zhi (下右 Lower right)
In Yangshuo project (Alila Yangshuo), we use concrete blocks as a main material for the new building, as it surrounds a well preserved sugar factory which is the core theme of the site. The old sugar factory is an impressive industry building built with grey bricks. Yet after decades of the baptism of wind and rain, the factory imprinted with time. The spatial concept was inspired by the relationship between the new building and the old factory.Therefore we tried to find a material that reflects the use of grey bricks in a more smart and delicate way. As the clay brick manufacturing process has a negative impact on environment, we commit the concrete block approach. Meanwhile, it is used as a border in the exterior corridor. For the obtain of natural light and ventilation, we hollowed the wall of concrete out.
We have gone through a lot of experiments and researched dozens of different building methods. In the end, we decided to hollow out each concrete block in center (the result is like a character 回）and pill them up with empty spaces between the layers. In this way we can minimize the consumption of concrete material. We use contemporary material and technology to correspond with the existing building as well as presenting the new generation characteristic. As shown in the previous example, the final material used in our project is influenced by many factors. And more importantly, only a material with its specifically designed tectonic is an embodied material yet can be applied in the building for us. Same type of wood in different building with a different tectonic detail is not exactly the same. I still want to emphasize that material and tectonic should be taken as a whole.
▽ 阳朔项目模型，Model of the Alila Yangshuo
▽ 回字形镂空砖的多次试验，The Masonry Experiments of the Concrete Block Facade
▽ 回字形镂空砖的最终效果， Final Result of the Concrete Block facade
In M woods museum project, you chose from three kinds of galvanized iron mesh with different densities and sizes. While in Baitasi Courtyard Hybrid, the glass block masonries have gone through lots of experiments to test the densities and proportions of the bubbles. And in Yangshuo project, you also have been through a twists and turns on choosing the masonry pattern. So, what is the difference of those “final decisions” ? (For example, what is the difference between the Glass Block Masonries in seashore library project and Baitasi project?) Is that based on emotional experiences or rational data (such as light transmittance, etc)?
Dong Gong: We care about both. On one hand, we, as a team, have our own preferences for materials. On the other hand, each project is limited by objective constraints. Take Seashore Library project as an example, it is our first time to use glass block masonries. We collaborated with a local factory to research the size and scale of the brick, and study how to pile it up. The final production was exclusive for the Seashore Library. The most important reason is that we intend to use glass block masonries to define the space, soften the direct sunlight in and artifactual light out and conceal the trusses in between. Another important reason is that we want each brick looking like a piece of ice cube, especially when the light diffuses from the interior. At the same time, ice has a certain relationship with the sea on site as well as the translucency brought up by bubbles. Glass block masonries is then seems to be a frozen liquid.
▽ 不同气泡密度与比例的玻璃砖，The Glass Block Masonries with Various Densities and Proportions of the Bubbles Photo Credit: gooood
▽ 玻璃砖柔化了光线，隐藏了其中的工业桁架。不同的气泡密度也带来明暗不一的光影，The Glass Block Masonries Conceal the Trusses in Between and Soften the Direct Sunlight with luminance variance. Photo by 苏圣亮 Su Shengliang
▽ 光线从里往外漫射出来，如同一块冰， The Light Diffuses from the Interior Making the Glass Block Masonries as an ice cube Photo by 夏至 Xia Zhi
In Baitasi project, the reason of using glass block masonries is derived from the existence of old bricks on site. The courtyard has a mixed functions, so we built a few translucent walls to deal the privacy matters among different functions. Its way of masonry work and its size are in strict accordance with the module of old courtyard brick on site. In a word, same type of material responds to different issues in different projects.
▽ 白塔寺项目中的玻璃砖墙划分了空间，The Wall of Glass Block Masonries Divided Different Functional Areas in The Courtyard Hybrid
About Chongqing project: architecture with green roof is widely spread nowadays, and the tectonic method is developed well. But we noticed that you sketched lots of detail structures. What makes your sketches so particular? We noticed that the green roof and the parapet is separated by a thin belt of rusted steel plates with pebbles. You design this detail for what kind of considerations?
Dong Gong: For us, those details are designed to meet the requirements of a particular building. For instance, we sketch how the different materials meets, and how to distribute vertical greening, etc. Naturally, there will be exclusive details for one specific project. And I prefer to study it by sketching.
The thin belts have two functions. Firstly, earth-shelter has a certain thickness. But we certainly do not want a visible thick earth-shelter and a result of a heavy building. So we set back the whole earth-shelter in a certain distance by application of the thin belt, and it results a better proportional parapet. The second reason is for drainage. The building has a relatively narrow width and that belt is the lowest point on the roof. So the water drains off from the roof center to sides, then runs along the slope in the ditches and finally falls down from the drain gully.
▽ 重庆桃源居社区中心项目节点草图，左侧为覆土屋顶细部，Detail Sketches in Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center Project, to the Left is the Green Roof Detail Sketch
▽ 屋顶与女儿墙之间的细带，The Thin Belt Separated the Green Roof and the Parapet. MORE: 重庆桃源居社区中心 Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center Photo by 苏圣亮 Su Shengliang
Why do you like wood-texture concrete? How to control the quality of wood-texture concrete?
Dong Gong: I stared to use the wood grain fair-faced concrete only in my recent projects. As we talked, Concrete materials seems to be similar are still different when they responds to different contexts. For example there are two concrete materials in Yangshuo project, one is concrete façade while another is concrete blocks façade. Correspondingly, one is a solid wall and another is a pierced wall. The fair-faced concrete wall echoes the module of the grey bricks applied in the existing building, via the same height of each wood formwork and the grey brick. As a result, the horizontal wood-texture of the fair-faced concrete has a subtle relation with old buildings. That is why we use wood texture concrete in Yangshuo project.
▽ 实面与镂空面的组合带来更丰富的层次，The Combination of Solid Walls and Pierced Walls
Basically, the surface of wood grain concrete is impossible to be repaired because each piece of the wood formwork has a unique texture. If a part of concrete is missed in casting process resulting the exposure of steel rebar, it is almost impossible to make up the missing part. Casting wood grain concrete requires high-level construction skills, which including many detailed technics, such as wood plate maintenances, the controlling technics of thermal expansion and contraction as well as humidity. All those construction technics will affect the ultimate quality and appearance of concrete. Moreover, the strength of formwork is also important in construction process. When it is not built dense enough, it may result in the leak of the concrete grout or an uneven surface with insufficient pressures. Overall, I think casting wood grain fair-faced concrete requires more complex construction technics, diligent hard work as well as comprehensive considerations.
▽ 实面墙体的构筑回应老房子砖的模数（阳朔建筑），The Fair-faced Concrete Wall Echoes the Module of the Grey Bricks Applied in the Existing Building (Alila Yangshuo).
After experiencing multiple projects, what kinds of materials (or what properties of a material) are difficult to control the most (or what materials are the most interesting)?
Dong Gong: I think whether a material is difficult to control or not, will be showed directly in architectures. For instance, using materials that are strictly followed industrial standards can make buildings looks new, clean and neat for a long term. But those materials do not have direct relation to the value and quality of the building. However, “difficult to control” quality of materials that should be avoided in industrial standards sometimes will surprise us. For example, Laminated Bamboo Slates may deform and fade in color. Moreover, in the manufacturing process of glass block masonries, different dense bubbles will lead to chromatic aberration. Sometimes those imperfections and unexpected consequences express a certain connection between materials and people, and bonding them emotionally. In a word, I think firstly it is hard to define the value of well-controlled materials. Secondly, it is hard to say whether the emotional bond between building and people relates to those “difficult to control” quality. Personally, I prefer to use materials that have traces left by people, weather or any other factors in manufacturing process and eventually those traces become a part of the building. It is more appealing and interesting to me.
▽ “难控制”非标准的建筑材料带来差别性，The None-standard Materials Bring Diversities to the Architecture Photo by 苏圣亮 Su Shengliang（上 Upper），夏至 Xia Zhi （下 Lower）
Unless otherwise specified, all photo credit: Vector Architects