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OCT Art Center

Nature-Based Esthetic

Zhu Pei

OCT Art Center
By Yu Yunlong -

The Chinese nature-based esthetic usually conjures up images of landscape paintings and the Jiangnan gardens in Southern China. However, representing nature in contemporary Chinese art, especially the relationship between nature and architecture in the highly-urbanized reality that is China today, takes on a whole new practical and artistic dimension. Studio Zhu Pei’s Zibo OCT Art Center is an answer to this challenge. Located in northern Shandong Province, Zibo is a region of plains and hills. Cold winters, hot summers and traditional stone buildings give the land a rugged untamed quality. The OCT Art Center responds to these local features, giving a new thrust to the concept of architecture and nature in contemporary China, in terms of the building’s outer envelope, its interiors and relationship to the landscape.

On the outside, the building is made of only two materials: unrendered stone and concrete. The latter bears the marks of the formwork, while the irregular stonework harks back to traditional building practices. The massive concrete roof encloses the central courtyard, dipping and rising like the traditional tie-dyed cloth canopies supported at both ends by bamboo poles. One side rises abruptly as if sustained by a taller pole, only to fall vertically as a crisp clean wall. Modern concrete technology maintains the original clayey texture of the cement in this state-of-the art construction. The many stone walls beneath the roof elements recreate the secluded intimacy of traditional local buildings. The juxtaposition of artificial and natural materials aptly symbolizes the complex weave of ancient and modern, natural and artificial that is China today.

Just as the building envelope and roof hark back to traditional construction models and techniques, so too, the interiors return to the traditional inner courtyard configuration. Four rectangular spaces are enclosed by a series of pleasingly staggered curved and straight...

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