The Qinyong Primary School Hotel is located in the southeast of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province in China. In the 1970s, the original village houses were completely demolished and reconstructed. The fabric of the natural village was replaced with a neatly organized uniform grid. The whole village was built with local brown granite. The uniform row houses under the commune system show a completely different idea of landscape structure from the traditional villages in the patriarchal society. Public buildings, such as the primary school, the canteen, the guest house and the auditorium are all made of the same material. They have witnessed the fiery period of collectivism.
The primary school is located on the high platform at the northernmost end of the village and faces south. It consists of a main teaching buildings and an auxiliary building. The large platform on the southern side of the primary school was originally the school playground. On the platform, you can get an aerial view of the whole village. The strip-shaped grey tile roof is like a piece of land art, stretching all the way to the foot of the adjacent mountain.
For the renovation of the main building, the elevated platform that runs through the rooms and corridors has become a key design method in response to several constraints. The platform as the space for pipelines avoids the drilled holes on the existing granite load-bearing wall of the classroom. By compressing the clear height with the elevated platform, the rooms adapted from the classrooms consist more intimate scale for guests. Take the platform as the MEP space, the layout of the interior elements gained much flexibility. Thus, standard-sized rooms can be transformed into various layouts with interior elements, to reply to the interests of different types of guests.
The interior elements can be comprehensively arranged on the platform. The orientation and topological relationships of the rooms differ on different floor, responding to the specific concerns of function and window position. Replacing a large amount of movable furniture with the built-in ones is not solely an issue of personal preference. Under a relatively low budget, it is a means to avoid using online bestsellers to achieve a so-called Instagram Style experience.
Thus, taking advantage of the load-bearing redundancy of the original structure, a canteen is added onto the rooftop of the annex building. The added part adopts a light steel structure which is welded by 5×5 centimeter square steel rods. The choice of materials and dimensions are the optimized result under the limiting conditions of construction and design. On one hand, to build on the roof, which is sensitive to load, requires that the material should be easily lifted and installed by manual labor. On the other hand, the size of the wooden frame (5×5 centimeter) for windows and doors sets up a precondition for choosing the steel element. Therefore, the steel structure can be completely hidden behind the wood enclosure, bringing no disturbance to the visual perception of interior space.
With such a design, a staircase is added on the northern side of the annex building, which links up the vertical circulation and brings about an opportunity to reorganize the internal and external relationship and spatial experience. The stairwell has openings in all directions and at various heights. Different sceneries are framed, giving visitors a rich spatial experience.
To the overall experience, the large number of in-situ fabricated woodwork from furniture scale to room scale not only gives a feeling of a singular enclosure to the interior space, but also endows a sense of “make do” to the momentary experience. Such specific moments of experience form a ‘de-familiarization’ effect in the interior space and detach the visitors from the continuous flow of commonness.
Atelier XUK was founded in 2010 by Kenan Liu and Xu Zhang in Shanghai. The partners were undergraduate classmates. Kenan Liu received a master degree from Tongji University and worked for Herzog & de Meuron in Switzerland. Xu Zhang received a master degree from ETH and worked for Buchner Bründler Architects in Switzerland. Along with the practice, they also teach at several universities.
By selecting and combining different types of construction under specific contexts, Atelier XUK strengthens the characteristics of the site and establishes the Place.
For Atelier XUK, “types of construction” is not restricted to object making and space generation, and “characteristics of site” is not only about borrowing or blocking the views of here and now. Under specific circumstances, Atelier XUK discusses these two topics in relation to the transforming daily lives under regional urbanization processes as well as the shared memories of people who are involved in the space.