Beijing office Vector Architects installed a louvred wall of weathered steel mesh along one facade of this visitor centre on a farm near Kunshan, China, to shade the interior from the low evening sun (+ slideshow).
Vector Architects – whose previous projects include a farm pavilion used for preparing crops – was asked to create a multi-purpose events space, offices and kennels in a restored outhouse on the site of the Yue Feng Island Organic Farm, which supplies produce and also provides a visitor attraction for guests to the nearby Fairmont Yangcheng Lake Hotel.
Responding to the flat site and agrarian surroundings of fields, trees and water, the architects created a long, single storey structure to house the centre's reception, events area, storage and offices.
Approaching the site from the entry road, the building presents a long facade clad in ridged Corten steel mesh that prevents direct sunlight from overheating the interior.
"The empty flatness of the site is an essential character that we believe the design should respond to," said the architects. "The architecture appears as two horizontal translucent screens from the farm side."
Daylight and cooling breezes are able to penetrate the mesh surface, while views of the rural landscape from inside the centre are retained.
The ridged structure of the mesh wall adds reinforcement and enables a long span that doesn't require a supporting stud system.
A corridor that occupies the space between the diaphanous surface and the building's external wall connects sheltered terraces at either end of the centre.
The rear of the building is also clad in rusted steel in the form of flat panels, interrupted by staggered vertical fins that cast a pattern of shadow across the surface.
A short set of stairs leads down from the covered terrace at the centre's entrance to a walkway that connects the main building with the kennels behind and the building housing additional offices.
Timber louvres flank the path on one side, creating a shaded passageway with a view of the visitor centre and the surrounding farmland.
The entrance to the main building leads to a glass-walled reception area with a skylight inserted into its slatted timber ceiling, which projects at an angle from the roof.
The walls of the reception, corridors and events space are clad in wooden tiles showing the end grain of the timber, which lends the interior a natural feel.
Photography is by Susheng Liang.
Here's a project description from Vector Architects:
Visitor Center, Kunshan, China
Sited in southeast corner of Yuefeng Island Eco-farm alongside the Yang Cheng Lake, Kunshan, the visitor centre consists of a multi-functional activity space, a pet dorm, and a preserved house used as office.
Our design task is to explore how architecture should be integrated into such a context, to create a new and unique place, however harmonise with nature.
The empty flatness of the site is an essential character that we believe the design should respond to. The architecture appears as two horizontal translucent screens from the farm side. The first screen is made of perforated Corten steel.
The corrugation reinforces the material and ultimately saves the supporting stud system at the back. The second screen surface is made of wood louver. The corridor behind it connects the three major programs of the building.
Both surfaces allow the penetration of wind, light and vision. While protecting the space from the western sun, they as well establish a blurred view of farm landscape for the people in the space.
The translucencies are sensitive of capturing the light, subtly shift the architectural image through the different season, weather, and the time of the day.
Location: Kunshan, China
Building Area: 280 sqm
Client: Kunshan City Investment Company
Design-partner-in-charge: Gong Dong
Architects: Zhimin Zhou, Xiangdong Kong, Feng Xu, Ran Huo
Project Advisor: Nan Wang
Structural and MEP Engineer: Yuangui Design Institute, Shanghai