Dongyuan community center is located in Suzhou, a canal city in southern Yangtze River Delta that boasts historical gardens and charming courtyard architectures. To the south side of the community center, lies a wetland, through which a river meanders, charting its course from east to west. Assisted along by reeds and trees on the river banks, it flows naturally, and greets the south side of the community center. The thriving nature in the area, together with the cultural heritage inspired the design concept of the project.
As a community center, this building needed to house such facilities that could host community activities and provide public services for residents and the public. These included communal affairs, social gatherings, art exhibitions, parent–child activities, sports events, and other community-based activities. These main functions shaped the internal requirements of the center. We wished to create a new spatial order that would effectively respond to both the community center’s functional demands, as well as the external environment. In so doing, the community center may emerge as a dynamic activity space that realizes the coexistence of socialness and naturalness, and cohesion and openness.
After in-depth research on structural systems and special order, we decided to use a system of “stacked walls as deep beams” to construct the space. It meets the structural needs of vertical loads and horizontal stiffness, while forming a special spatial order: the walls provide enclosure and divide spaces, while the void provides openness and links spaces—it is the dual effort of this order that achieves the coexistence of cohesion and openness.
Inverted reinforced-concrete barrel shell roofs create an impression of being under waves: standing under the ridge, one gets a sense of stability similar to that of traditional gable roofs; standing under the valley, one experiences a dynamism that mimics rising tides. The interior impressions and the external appearance of the wavy gable walls express a connection with water and tie back to the traditional architectural style along the southeast Yangtze River Delta.
In this project, architects used architectural ontology of structure, tectonic and space to responding to the needs from nature, society and human. The alternately arranged walls and openings in this form-type merge architecture and nature to form a permeable courtyard cluster. Uniquely defined by stacked walls, the spaces provide interwoven auras created by the flow of light and time.
Scenic Architecture Office was founded in Shanghai in 2004. In any project undertaken, they start from the needs of body and mind, and that of nature and society. They try to establish a balanced and dynamic relationship between these components through ontological orders composed by space, time and tectonics, and to carve a new identity for contemporary architecture niched between Chinese tradition and the future. Scenic Architecture Office’s works have been widely published and earned awards like Architizer A+ Award, Archdaily Annual China Architecture Award, WAACA Award, Far Eastern Architectural Design Award, China Architecture Media Award. Their works have also been invited to partake in various exhibitions, including Venice Architecture Biennale, Milano Triennial, New Trends of Architecture in Europe and Asia-Pacific in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennale, Shanghai Urban Space Art Season, etc.
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