Renovation of the Council Building : Public Space for Special ‘Villagers’
Jijiadun Village is located in the fertile Kunshan, Jiangsu Province. It was a village built in the 1980s and surrounded by rice fields. There are two or three waterways passing through the village. The walk is the beautiful scenery of the Jiangnan Water Village. The village escaped the misfortune of being dismantled and rebuilt as a factory two years ago. After the compromise, the result was to be developed and transformed into the kind of “village” that city people dreamed of: quiet, pastoral, relaxed and fun. The future “villagers” will be those urban people who would love to experience the rural life here for an hour driving from Shanghai. They will stay here in local accommodation and participate in various activities. To experience urban-rural differences will be their main purpose.
▼建筑南立面，south elevation of the building
The design task was the transformation and addition of the village committee building located at the entrance of the village, making it a public space for future “villagers”. Initially, the owners did not propose strict functional requirements. In the future, the space would be rented out to small merchants for bars, cafes, shops and workshops. The only certainty is to have a large space as a restaurant, as well as supporting kitchens. In addition, it is necessary to provide outdoor space for each business unit so that the overall limited space can carry more activities.
Together with the owners, we have established a working process that starts with the operation of space, creates a series of spaces from big to small, and has a hierarchical relationship, and creates as many positive public spaces as possible. This functional uncertainty has continued until the completion of the building. The large space originally planned as a restaurant becomes an exhibition and event space. Each small room also carries functions that were far from originally intended.
▼建筑南侧局部外观，part of the south elevation
Confliction Between the Temperament of Original Bases
Built in the 1990s, the village committee building has a double-slope roof and two story reinforced concrete frame structures. On the east side there is a public toilet that was added later. The ridge is ten meters above the ground and is the tallest building in the entire village. The village committee building before the renovation, like most government buildings, has a compact layout and a plain appearance. Although traditional roof tile is used on the roof, the shape of the boxy square is quite different from the Jiangnan Water Village. in particular, the building is surrounded by eight-meter-high walls. There are areas inside and outside the building that go straight up and down. There is not a positive space for people to sit down. Ironically, as the only public building in the village, it created no public space. The spatial power relations of the village committee building are simple and clear. The majestic and tall buildings make people standing in front of them seem insignificant.
building before renovation with no public space
Interestingly, there is a huge difference between the majesty and closure of the village committee building and the openness and peace of the whole village. Walking along the alley, you will find the public space here organic and moving. There will be surprises from time to time along the street’s interface, some active and small spaces facing pedestrians, so that the building’s interface is no longer cold. However, there are tremendous conflictions between the enclosed building and open village. Public spaces alongside streets are active. Those positive spaces light up the street interface, attract pedestrians, and warm the building façade.
▼计家墩中建筑细部构成积极的公共空间，positive spaces in JiJiaDun Village
There are two very subtle space treatments that are particularly impressive. Usually, the only positive side of a Chinese houses is its facades. Walls retreat to golden pillars to create an entry area and it brings positiveness to the house. The house therefore faces people and service people, while the other three sides are white walls and small windows. This impressive detail transforms the side and back of the house slightly, allowing them to respond to the environment and become positive. The first place added a less than one meter wide frame to the side and formed a entry area. The owner even moved the entrance of the house to the side to respond to the street. In the second place, the wall on the back of the house retreats to the golden column, forming a porch. Although there is no door, the underarms allow neighbors to sit there.
▼改造后建筑的南侧庭院，提供更多公共空间，courtyard in the south of the renovated building, providing more space for the public
Spatial Strategies: Open the Arrogant Box
▼打开建筑立面，引入公共空间，introduce public spaces into the original building
It is these subtle operations that come from life that make the back of the house positive and negative spaces into positive spaces. A few steps in the village can be seen either facing pedestrians or connecting with the interior, or sheltering or sheltering. These qualities of space are exactly what I want to create in transformation and construction: Open square boxes that are closed and rejected thousands of miles away, and let the public space of the village enter the building. Therefore, rather than saying that we are building a building, it is better to say that it is an urban design—opening a building, letting it become outside, and letting it become part of the village’s public space.
1. After setting the goals for the transformation, we have a strategy for space operations:
2. To break the square box that is symmetrical and symmetrical, to eliminate the original relationship of space rights, to reduce the dimensions of the building facade, and to eliminate the cold and arrogant posture.
3. Let the main pedestrian road into the village pass through the building so that the interior and exterior spaces of the building can be connected to become part of the village’s public space.
4. Completely subvert the internal and external divisions of the building to allow indoor and outdoor communication; the interior of the building is an indoor garden, and the exterior of the building is an outdoor living room. People’s activities extend from the interior to the outside and flow from the outdoors to the interior.
5. Open all sides of the building to the periphery so that the passive, majestic and resistant interfaces around them become active spaces that are both indoor and outdoor and face and serve the outside.
6. Emphasize the urban character of the building and turn it from a piece of sculpture that is viewed from outside into a garden that is experienced from within.
▼首层穿越建筑的公共空间，public space through the first floor
打开南侧界面|Open the south interface
Through the reinforcement of the top structure, the five bays of the south facade of the old building are completely opened, creating a new possibility of indoor and outdoor connectivity. Thereafter, a high wall was placed 3.6 meters to the south of the original building, making it a new spatial interface. As a result, the columns of reinforced concrete frame structures originally concealed in the walls were revealed and became the protagonists in space; we retained the original concrete texture and the incisions left on the columns after the facade beams were sawn off. The operation of building renovation.
▼入口空间，成为村庄公共空间的一部分，entrance space becomes part of the village’s public space
The entrance area is defined by the courtyard wall and the edge of the paving. It belongs to the yard and to the space outside the courtyard at the same time. A double-sided corridor is designed between the main courtyard and the entrance courtyard. People can sit on both sides. The corner opens to form a door that can accommodate one person. The door turns to the side and becomes a window that is high with the human eye. Outside the courtyard, one can peer into the courtyard; the door rolled down and formed a bridge across the water for passage. Such a structure is a gate, a bridge, and the construction of a window accommodates several sets of behaviors such as sitting, peeping, and walking, providing different ways for the communication between the two yards.
▼廊架提供休息和交流的空间，corridor provide space for rest and communication
营建室内花园|Construction of interior gardens
Through the structural transformation and reinforcement, the beam and the floor of the old building were sawn off, allowing the old building to exhibit the greatest space potential – a single-span high space with a height of 10 meters. This further blurs the boundary between indoor and outdoor: the indoor lobby is still indoors for outdoor space, while for small rooms, there is sunlight and plants outside. The internal and external relations have become complex. The hall has become part of the public space of the village. It is both inside and outside
▼中庭入口空间，entrance to the atrium
▼改建后通高的宽敞中庭，double-height atrium after renovation
▼裸露的混凝土柱，exposed concrete column
▼中庭为空间提供充足采光，sufficient natural light from the atrium
打开建筑北侧界面|Open the north side of the building
There is a row of low-rise houses on the north side of the original building, and there is a three-meter wide alley between the old building and very few people pass it. Renovation works by moving the wall on the back of the building to the inside of the building, allowing the street to enter the building. The new space definition breaks the boundaries of the original building and creates a more complex one.
The original design chose to retain some of the beams and the two-story floor slabs, and to reinforce the cut beams and slabs, which were supported and cantilevered by a concrete column that moved inside. During the construction process, the technical requirements for the reinforcement of concrete floors were found to be too high and the construction team could not complete them. Ultimately, the initial design was achieved with steel structures, which also caused inconsistencies in the expression of real structures and structures.
▼北侧展廊让街道走进建筑，covered corridor in the north allowing the street to enter the building
南侧加建|Addition on the south side
In front of the old building, four sets of sloping roof houses joined by corners are enclosed, and four groups of interconnected courtyards are enclosed. The vacant place forms a two-story open courtyard, connecting the upper and lower space in multiple places. Create a layer of provocation in the new part, reduce the scale, and define a layer of indoor and outdoor connectivity. The trees and fields on the south side of the building naturally flow into the courtyard and into the interior, further challenging the established relationship between the interior and exterior of the courtyard.
▼南侧加建部分模型，model of the addition on the south side
▼南侧底层架空院落，covered courtyard on the south side
▼新建部分二层多功能厅，multi-functional hall on the second floor of the additional building
The two roof terraces on the second floor of the building are connected to form a loop. The loop also connects a series of outdoor patios and two-story indoor platforms. Along the way, people walk between indoor and outdoor. From time to time, observers will question and reconfirm their position in space. The sequence of marches will bring a labyrinthine experience.
▼形成环路的二层走廊，corridor forms circulation on the second floor
▼二层室外走廊，outdoor corridor on the second floor
▼二层天井，light well on the second floor
▼屋顶平台及连通廊道，roof platform and corridor
Garden: A construction that requires physical experience
The entire transformation attempts to construct multiple spaces that are both internal and external. The ambiguity of space challenges people’s spatial attribution and cognition, creating a labyrinth of indoor and outdoor intertwining, and a combination of architecture and nature. This is also the type of “village” that I tried to build in this building – a structure consisting of houses, walls and courtyards. The transformed building is like a porous structure with no inner and outer boundaries and people can enter from any direction. It is no longer a sculptural, outward-looking building, but rather a garden that needs to be experienced from within. When a building can easily be captured into a photo and then conveniently consumed from the screen of the mobile phone, the real building disappears and the photo becomes the building. If Hugo’s time is that the book killed the building, then in our time, the photo may have done the same thing.
A building that cannot be described may be a building that is difficult to generalize with one or a few photographs, or it may not be able to abstract it simply by a narrative or concept. The most interesting parts of the perception of scale, the order of space, and the experience of the body are all incapable of being conveyed by photographs, drawings, and words; they emphasize the physical experience of the body and resist the abstraction, generalization, and dissemination of architecture. Only when you are in a building and strolling in it can you realize those qualities that the photos can’t describe – perhaps these parts are the most precious qualities of architecture in the era of excessive consumption by the media.
In our design, we intend to strengthen the interaction between this person’s body and architecture and the accumulation of human experience in architecture. We designed a building that requires physical experience.
▼夜景，供人体验的公共空间，night view, public space for people to experience
▼首层平面图，first floor plan
▼二层平面图，second floor plan
Project name: From Sculpture to Garden: The Renovation of JiJiaDun Village Center
Contact E-mail: email@example.com
Design & Completion Year: 2018
Leader Designer & Team: Ming Yan, Mingxi Zhao, Xu Song, Rongjie Zhong
Project Location: Kunshan, Jiangsu Province
Gross Built Area (square meters): 2000㎡
Photo credits: YZscape
Structural Design: Yanzhi Wang
Electromechanical Design: Lu Chen, Lingling Han
Construction Team: Shanghai Xuwei Architecture Installation Engineering Co., Ltd.
Owner team: Yinhao Qiu, Jing’ao Chen, Jianming Wu, Mingtao Chen, Xiao Yang, Lei Wang
Clients: Xiangban Jiajiadun Culture Development Co., Ltd.