Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum sites at the office headquarter of a stone manufacture. Over the years of stone mining, the manufacture has established a private archeological team and discovered numerous fossils, from insect amber to dinosaur egg. The manufacture decides to dedicate the atrium along with the first and second floors of the headquarter and convert it to a fossil museum to house their archeological finds.
The project transforms the principal of stone dissection, which is specific to stone mining, into a spatial division mechanism, to cut the cubical space accordingly. Besides that, the geometric logic of crystal is also introduced as a way to tight the irregular spatial parts together. The orthogonal office space is transformed into a mysterious triangulated space. As the heavy mass floating up, the anti-gravity space places the audience in an unknow space seemly coming straight from a Si-fi film.
The project stick to only one architecture element—the wall—to keep the consistency and authenticity for the project. The architecture language of the wall is reinvented with endless potentials, and so as the space between the walls. With the consistent architecture language, the construction of the project is simple and straightforward: with light-frame and gypsum board laying underneath as the sub-structure, the project uses double layers of concrete panels as the surfacing material for the interior space, to create the calm and coolness of the stone cave that houses the fossils.
The conflict between private headquarter and public museum is a major challenge to the project. The project derives spatial division principal from stone-dissection to divide the office building into two parallel universes. While the museum occupies the first and second floors and office takes up third to fifth floors, the atrium skylight—the only light source for both office and museum—needs to be shared by both museum and office simultaneously, as the two spaces are divided physically. A four stories deep light well is thus created as the passive lighting device for the museum, as well as the spatial division between office and museum. The Quadrangular pyramid light well stretches from the building roof to the first story ceiling to bring light into the first floor museum atrium, while the second floor exhibition space and the rest of the office space are lite by the remaining portion of the building skylight, as well as the reflected light bounced by the tilted outer-surface of the light well. Another significant challenge comes from the controlled budget of the project. In response, the project relies on tectonic complexity to create monumentality for the museum and avoids reliance on expansive surface treatment.
In terms of construction, as the project is constructed through a series of tiled walls, it is difficult to express controlled points in space through two-dimensional Cartesian grid. We come up with a three-dimensional coordinate system for spatial demarcation, and the design was completely understood on the construction site. With the help of the total station apparatus, the spatial control points in model was mapped out precisely in space, then construction becomes possible.
As the project is located in Xiamen—a port city of Southern China, the project adds another historic layer to the vivid modern city of Xiamen. Beside, the museum also bridge the gap between industry and culture facility for the public. The project gives a new definition for industry, and it also presents a new model for manufacture to upgrade itself to an “industry + culture” mode. Industry is taking more responsibility to help create the culture environment of our society in large.
Atelier Alter Architects is a cross-disciplinary practice based in New York and Beijing. Constantly redefining boundaries of architecture, the works of Atelier Alter strive for manifesting ideas of significance: ideas that offer critics rather than imitations.
Designing with social agendas, the practice focuses upon culture and civic works since the beginning. By transferring metaphysical context into spaces of historic remembrance, the practice completed projects of Qujing Culture Center, Senior Culture Center, and Yingliang Fossil Museum. Meanwhile, projects of BIT Sport Center, WuliEpoch Culture Center, Yingliang Stone Archive exploded the typological transformation of social and culture spaces. Noted for designing from critical analysis of the site, Atelier Alter Architects has been recognized by numerous awards, including AIA Design Award, German Design Award, BOY Award, AZ Award etc. Meanwhile, works from Atelier Alter Architects has been published and featured worldwide.