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Fuyang Cultural Complex

A contemporary painting

Amateur Architecture | Wang Shu

Fuyang Cultural  Complex
By Li Xiangning -

Fuyang, a little town near Hangzhou in the geographic area of Jiangnan, was the favorite place of the famous Yuan dynasty artist, Huang Gongwang, who depicted its landscape in his masterpiece, the hand-scroll painting Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains. It is here too that architect Wang Shu designed and built the Fuyang Cultural Complex comprising an art gallery, museum, and archive. Occupying around 40,000 square meters, it is Wang Shu’s largest project and greatest challenge. A function of its unique location, the complex evidences the architect’s ability to blend traditional Chinese culture and western architectural style. Wang Shu likes to see himself as one of China’s contemporary literati, living in the city yet harboring a hermetic romanticism for country landscapes. Art critics often underline the contrast between the landscape art of northern and southern China: northern landscapes often portray steep magnificent mountains whereas southern landscapes are enshrouded in mist, and the mountains are smooth and gentle. This may explain the problem posed for Wang Shu to integrate the enormous new complex into its environment. Unlike the huge overbearing constructions frequently seen in contemporary Chinese architecture, the Fuyang Cultural Complex climbs discretely up its hillside site, a cluster of volumes fitting into its natural environment, each volume following the rise and fall of the terrain. While the overall spatial relationship can be likened to the Chinese garden, I know that in his early years Wang Shu was obsessed by intricate western architectural clusters like the Villa of Hadrian in the outskirts of Rome, and that these works also influenced his later architectural creations. In fact, like the ancient Roman construction, each individual building of the Fuyang complex is a unit into itself but also part of a harmonious overall geometry: a subtle weave of construction and natural landscape, creating a sense of delight in outdoor...

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