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Sun Township is located in the heart of the scenic area of Dabie mountain in Huoshan county, Anhui Province. To support travel industry, the local government had commissioned our team to design a square and a parking lot here, when the field engineering was almost finished, that only a small temple had not been tear down completely yet. Such a small temple for the God of Wealth is quite common in surrounding rural area, therefore the decision made to remove it had not cause attention at first. However, as the site investigation going deep, we found this temple special. It was nearly two hundred years-old, destroyed and rebuilt many times through history. Tiny as it was, the temple was a spiritual center of local villagers for centuries. We then convinced the client to rebuild this temple nearby, to continue local traditional beliefs as well as provide visitors an interesting interactive facility. In this way this temple became a self-proposed design task beyond the initial commission brief. We hope that through the design of this tiny facility, we can provide spiritual space for unsophisticated folk beliefs, and a dignified place for rural religious activities.
▼建成照片，Photo of completion
▼财神庙拆除前原状，Condition of the temple for God of Wealth before demolishing
The new site had been arranged in a ravine which is tens of meters away from the original site, backing mountains in three sides, facing the square, enjoying independent and peaceful environment. The new temple should not only act as a sacred place of folk beliefs, but also serve tourists and non-believers. The first problem to be solved is how to increase its publicity and interactivity. Such folk village temples used to be enclosed on three sides, ended up with narrow space. Considering the above, our design team tried to change the adducent spatial form of the former village temple, by introducing the form of a “pavilion”, opening the external. Expect the necessary background wall for the shrine, we released and opened the space all the way around, with the roof stretching out soothingly, to create a comfortable space of contemplation, showing an sharing and open image toward the villagers.
▼财神庙入口，Entrance of the Temple
▼引入“亭”做法，庙宇四面通透，更具公共性和开放性，an Open “Pavilion” for the Public
Rural construction often faced the limitation of technology and materials. Although traditional material seems to meet certain aesthetics and values, its high cost and the shortage of skilled workers made it not the best choice. Therefore, we chose the most controllable in-situ concrete to construct the overall frame of the new temple, while inviting local bamboo craftsman to knit handmade bamboo woven mats as the lining of the construction molds, which gave the concrete a texture of bamboo mats. In this way we add to the cold modern material, concrete, the temperature of traditional craftmanship. For the walls of the rebuilt temple we applied red brick, which used to be filling blocks rather than presenting at the final exteriors. We transformed the usage of this common material by simply change their direction, directly used hollow bricks to structure the masonry wall. The brick holes formed an unalloyed texture, making the scenery behind partly hidden and partly visible, blurring the boundary of the space. The square-shape opening of the roof adds to the religious atmosphere of the temple. The light ray dropping from the top moves slowly through daytime and illumine the statue at specific moment.
▼庙宇内部，阳光可以通过屋顶的方形开口在特殊时间照到神像上，Interior of the Temple, sunlight could illumine the statue through the square opening on the roof at specific moment
▼墙体由红色空心砖砌筑而成，Walls made of Red Hollow Bricks
▼竹席模板混凝土，竹席模板由村里篾匠在编织而成，Concrete with bamboo mat texture, which weaved by local craftsman
In south China region, water is a symbol of wealth. Many native buildings strongly emphasizes the role of rain in architecture. Thus in dealing with the roof drainage we especially considered this folk custom, did special treatment for the drainage system.Also inspired by the “rain chains”in Japanese traditional architecture, the design made rainwater discharge become a lively and interesting landscape, and a clever metaphor of “the God of Wealth”.
▼雨链，The rain chains
When praying at the temple, local residents not only burn incense, but also set off firecrackers, pine branches and paper money, etc. The government concerned the risk of mountain forest fire and environmental pollution, raised that if we could guide the behavior of villagers through design. The hollow brick wall of the temple became a new type of blessing facility, where people can roll up the red paper written with blessing words then put them into the hollow holes in the wall. With the passage of time, the brick wall holes slowly become filled up with red paper, connecting the construction with its users, and creating a process of growth. In this way, the building itself and the belief activities closely unifies together. Bell ringing is a very popular activity among the participants of religious affairs in China. Below the site, we designed a big bell. Thus people can ring for blessing after coming down from the temple. The ringing bell and the blessing wall become new hot spot of the temple for the God of Wealth, popular among both local residents and visitors.
▼祈福墙，The blessing wall
After the completion of this accidental project, which was not originally commissioned by the client, it also achieved unexpected effects. The new temple of wealth retained and continued the belief center of villagers, which not only continue to be a place for villagers to pray for wealth and luck, but also became an interaction place for visitors and villagers to communicate with each other, achieving unique public attributes. The appearance of the new temple and the new way of blessing also refreshed the residents’ understanding of these facilities, becoming a focus of attention and discussion by visitors, infusing new vitality to folk beliefs.
Project location: Huoshan county, Lu ‘an city, Anhui province
Design time: March 2017
Completion date: February 2018
Area: 20 square metres
Design organ: CNRPD \ Fuyingbin Studio
Chief designer: Fu Yingbin
Team: Zhang Haoran, Cai Wancheng, Yan Lu
Photography: Zhang Qianx
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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