Used tiles and bricks are piled up into rule-defying structures, old architectural methods are used to construct large buildings, and traditional spirit coexists with modernism. Welcome to the Xiangshan campus of the China Academy of Art, the signature work of Wang Shu, winner in 2012 of the Pritzker Prize, which is the Nobel of architecture.
All the buildings on the campus seem odd at first glance: Rough facades are built of misaligned recycled bricks and tiles, windows are not of a regular size and pop up randomly on the wall, and the gates are irregularly shaped.
However, “they can stand the test of time,” said Wang, the designer and the architect. “As time passes, people will become more aware of the meaning of my work.”
Known as a proponent of traditional design in modern times, Wang designed this new campus in harmony with the natural contours of the site, while incorporating the use of traditional construction techniques.
The campus, covering an area of more than 500,000 square meters, is like a small town that provides living and learning space for students and staff. The use of gardens, recycled materials, traditional techniques, local labor and environmentally sound design all played an important role in this new campus with a historical feel. It was built with 6 million tiles from demolished traditional houses.
Most of the buildings are fewer than five stories tall. They are designed so that the curves match the line of the hills in the distance, visually forming a harmonious bond. Corridors and cloisters wind around the campus, softening the overall look.
The windows come in many different sizes, and their uneven placement adds vigor.
Many old trees were preserved along the banks of ponds around the campus, where “professors can hold classes,” hopes Wang.
The campus has become a hot tourism spot since Wang, the school’s dean of architecture, won the Pritzker, despite its out-of-the-way location in suburban Zhuantang Town in southwest Hangzhou.
Today Shanghai Daily tours the campus and finds some more spots where visitorscan have a rest, a bite or stayfor a while.
Shui An Shan Ju Tea House/Hotel/Restaurant
Wang calls Shui An Shan Ju his “guest house,” built in 2012 and including a tea house, a hotel and two restaurants.
Meaning water’s bank, hill residence, Shui An Shan Ju follows the style of the entire campus:
The path leading people to the gate is paved with recycled tiles. The walls of compacted soil are extremely solid, so much so that a fingernail can’t scratch it, even though the material is just soil from nearby hills.
Bamboo strips line walls, and a structure that looks like an accordion-style rack supports the tile-paved roof that tops the rammed-soil walls.
“The soil-compacted walls appear in natural color layers, cream-colored and orange, because two types of soil from nearby hills are used in the walls,” said Biao Biao, the manager of the tea house of Shui An Shan Ju.
The inner decor of the tea house is traditional and blends with the look of the facade. The bar counter is tile and brick, and the tea house includes sleek wooden chairs and shelves, woven bamboo chairs and tables, dried plants in unpolished porcelain containers, plus high French windows. It all makes sipping tea there an intriguing experience.
The first-floor ceiling, which is more than 4 meters high, does make it a challenge for heaters to keep the space warm in winter.
The restaurant next door sells Canton-style and Hangzhou-style food, and the average cost per person is about 50 yuan (US$8.20). The hotel’s rooms average about 800 yuan per night. Both feature modern interior decor.
Aside from concrete used to build stairs and some walls, all the building material for Shui An Shan Ju is from nature, including bamboo, wood and soil.
The building is a photographer’s paradise, especially at night when illumination adds some dramatic effects.
Facing Shui An Shan Ju at the south bank of the stream that passes the art campus, there is another eye-catching feature — a black locomotive plus a green carriage used as a cafe for art college students and staff.
The black locomotive is an installation artwork exhibited as the Shanghai Biennial in 2008, and was called as “the largest work of art in the world” by then-curator Zhang Qing.
The work by Jing Shijian, a professor of the China Academy of Art, was made from an abandoned locomotive produced some 40 years ago, which cost Jing hundreds of thousands of yuan to buy.
Jing found the locomotive in Wuhan in Hubei Province — it had been used for service to the former Soviet Union, and was one of more than 200 old locomotives abandoned in China.
Jing made it an installation to commemorate the policy of sending “educated youth” to the countryside during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976).
Jing also found a 1960s-era, 45-meter-long and 150-ton green carriage, The outer part of the carriage has not been changed, but everything inside except electric fans has been removed for renovation.
In addition, old posters calling youth to action, tea cups and some plates feature the profile of Mao Zedong. long green seats and white gauze curtains are reproductions of vintage train decor.
The train sits on rails 50 meters long.
The menu in the cafe is like that of most cafes, with coffees, teas and pastas with affordable prices since students are its main customers.
How to go to Xiangshan campus:
By bus: Take No. 189, No. 308 to Xiangshan stop, No. 504 to Zhuantang Town