The exhibition centre sits beside an eco-farm in Loudi called Huo-shui-yuan. Presided over by the village collective, the farm focuses on cultivating organic produce and educating locals about the natural environment.
SHAW Architecture & Design Studio wanted the centre to pay homage to the surrounding landscape, which forms part of the Loess Plateau – an arid area of highland in northern China that's distinguished by its crumbly, yellow-grey soil that has been deposited by the wind throughout the ages.
"In two to three million years, this land changed from forest into broken valleys, wrinkled like an old man’s skin," explained the studio, which is based in Shanghai.
The interior of the centre has therefore been made deliberately dark in order to steer visitor sightlines towards the outdoors. Timber beams – some of which are slightly charred – line the walls, while the floor has been inlaid with large black tiles.
Only a few pendant lamps have been suspended from the ceiling. Gridded or slanted window frames that the studio crafted from wooden twigs, salvaged from the farm's broken fences, also filter the natural light seeping through to the centre.
Seating nooks for visitors have been built-in around the periphery of the room, along with a series of cabinets and shelves where agricultural objects will be put on display. The only freestanding furnishings in the centre are two long tables and a handful of stools, which are used for community workshops.
One of the tables balances on chunky rammed-earth legs, which the studio included as a nod to the materiality of yaodongs, or "house caves" – earthen shelters which are carved out of hillsides in the Loess Plateau region.
SHAW Architecture & Design Studio was founded by Xu Zhifeng in 2013. Similarly to this project, Vector Architects created a visitors centre for a farm in Kunshan, China.
The centre occupies a restored outhouse and is externally clad with louvres of weathered steel.
Photography is by Shuyin Wu.
Interior design: SHAW Architecture & Design Studio
Lead designer: Shuyin Wu
Clients: LSM Rural Reconstruction Center, Beijing Common Justice Foundation
Local project coordinator: Lixia Yan
Construction team: Hongwei Mei, Qingfeng Kong, Yongkang Bai, Long Li, Weixing Wang
Lighting installer and painter: Yuanping Li
Re-used wood manufacturer: Xinliang Feng
Ram earth consultant: Zengfei Liang
Illustration: Shuyin Wu