architecture AND terrain
The project is in the Suzhou New District SND, not only one of China’s most dynamic cities, but also one revered for its traditional walled garden heritage.
The site is generally flat and sits adjacent to an isolated green mountain, preserved for its beauty and landscape significance.
The culture centre brief consisted of a library, sports complex, elderly people’s facility, performing arts complex, and visual arts museum.
architecture AND terrain
Instead of developing a single building, or a cluster of smaller buildings, which would have blocked views and access to and from the mountain, BAU have disintegrated the programs and focused on the development of a new terrain, a terrain that actually enhances views and access to the mountain.
This existing surface of the site is lifted at its corners, and the larger primary building programs are placed under these raised corners. The emerging dish like form is then further folded and faceted to extend the terrain metaphor. The resultant vague terrain is a disruption to the sense of what a property development looks like, dissolving traditional understandings of land ownership and control by a single entity or owner – blurring the line between public and private space.
under AND over
Under the terrain, the public buildings inhabit cave like volumes. Courtyards provide light and surprise, while upper level terraces open onto the terrain and allow users a refreshing break between sessions. The sports complex has an outdoor pool and outdoor sports courts on its upper terraces.
Over the terrain, smaller programs are located in pavilions that are spread across the terraced and undulating surface. They invite the general public to visit the site, and tea-houses and bars encourage them to stay longer. This new terrain is manipulated to create an outdoor theater space suitable for large stage events.
visible AND invisible
The bigger programs present frontages at the street corners with activities visible and accessible to the public. In these locations the terrain disappears. Away from the corners, the terrain itself is visible and accessible along the street, while the larger programs disappear.
spaces AND places-to-be
This project easily accommodates the programs and spaces asked for in the brief, but it also suggests many other programs, and provides many other spaces not initially considered. It also provides pedestrian shortcuts across the site, while enhancing the beauty of, and access to the natural amenity of the mountain. This project provides citizens with a series of highly accessible, welcoming and relaxed new places-to-be in the city.