Strap line 2015

monthlies OnOffice July9

07 Apr 2020

Studio Zhu-Pei complete fortress-like cultural centre

Words by  Photo by Photo: Schran Images

Clad in sculptural concrete and spaced around several courtyards, the vast new cultural centre draws on local vernacular architecture

Studio Zhu-Pei has completed work on the Shou County Culture and Art Center, in China’s Anhui Province.

The centre has a playful variation in windows and apertures. Photo: Schran Images.The centre has a playful variation in windows and apertures. Photo: Schran Images

The studio, which was founded in 2005 by Zhu Pei, was inspired by the area’s local history. Researching the area’s extant historical architecture, Zhu Pei’s eye was captured by the region’s courtyard houses, arranged around narrow lanes. With their thick, weatherproofing walls and tiny windows, the houses are each distinct.

Erected in an unremarkable new town few kilometres south of the area’s historic core, the Shou County Culture and Art Center provides continuity with these venerable structures. 

A series of irregularly-shaped courtyards were inspired by a local housing typology. Photo: Schran Images.A series of irregularly-shaped courtyards were inspired by a local housing typology. Photo: Schran Images

It comprises a vast rectangular form accessible through numerous entrances, within which is a cultural centre, art gallery, library and archive. Inside the wall sit a series of irregularly sized courtyards, connecting by a twisting, sheltered public walkway. 

The architects used a distinctive striped concrete, which grants the building texture. Photo: Schran Images.The architects used a distinctive striped concrete, which grants the building texture. Photo: Schran Images

Faced in textural concrete the building has a sculptural presence. Irregularly shaped doors, windows and other apertures provide constant surprise, while pools of water — including a large, moat-like one outside the building — provide permeable contrast to the solid walls. The entirety resembles a labyrinth of interlocking architectural forms. 

Covered walkways allow passage through the center's different sections. Photo: Schran Images.Covered walkways allow passage through the centre's different sections. Photo: Schran Images

With a focus on cultural institutions, Zhu Pei is one of China’s most acclaimed contemporary architects. Dean of Architecture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and a former visiting professor at Harvard and adjunct professor at Columbia, Zhu Pei’s work centres around grounding a building into its specific nature and culture.

newsletter 2015

Directory