Kunshan, Suzhou, China
For this visitor center in Kunshan, Shen Zhuang and his team at Atelier Archmixing have constructed a small architectural cluster by adopting an approach called “breaking up the whole into parts.”
Each part has flexible functions to meet initial multiple needs and adapt to potential future changes.
Visitors can reach the woodlands and waterfront in the back by passing through the cluster.
Some of these small buildings are covered by a square perforated metal grille roof.
Such design creates a semi-covered outdoor space, for hosting public activities and as a lounge space.
To be precise, it is a pavilion-like space.
Kunshan Urban Ecological Forest Park is located at northwest of Kunshan City, approximately 4 km from the city center, covering a total area of 3,150 Mu.
It is a city park open to the public freely.
On the left side of the south entrance, along the river, there was originally a sales office with a site area of approximately 1,310 m2.
To make good use of this land, the owner decided to build here a new visitor center.
The new building is used for comprehensive services, parks, and urban administration.
It was also expected that the building can be integrated with the landscape.
The architects also noticed that there was a big green space to the north of the site, rather unattractive, and they decided to include this space into the design for visitors.
The design is not complex at all.
In terms of form and spatial organization, the design can be vividly described as “small houses and large pavilions.”
The small houses are two-story, designed with pitched roofs.
Their surface is made of natural-colored aluminum-magnesium panels and glass.
The thin-gridded roof cover measures approximately 22m x 32m square and is overall in deep gray, with glass roof covers in the middle to prevent rainwater.
The structure of this roof adopts thin-walled steel plate square units with a dimension of 1.8X1.8m and a height of 700mm, which forms a perforated grid single beam.
Within the composed grid beam system, spaces between beams are filled with aluminum plate grids of the same dimensions (plan 300x300mm, height 700mm).
Both the steel plate and aluminum plate are in deep gray.
At this point, a 300mm square thin-walled grid roof cover is visually integrated. It looks like a homogeneous structure.
This unique roof originated from another design that we did not implement before.
The original design aimed to experiment with an all-steel thin-walled square grid roof as the overall roof covering of the building.
After calculating the solar altitude angle, the architects drew a conclusion that in order to achieve a shadowless indoor lighting environment with natural homogeneous light all year round, the roof thickness has to reach 900mm.
Unfortunately, this former design was not implemented.
In the current design, the “large pavilion” in Kunshan, the architects opted for the form of a thin-walled grid roof, which is a simplified and cost saving structure.
In the meantime, by calculating the solar altitude angle, on the contrary, the architects aimed to create an environment with shadows where visitors will have a moment of forest, under the sunshine and mottled shade.
Project: Visitor Center of Kunshan Urban Ecological Forest Park
Architects: Atelier Archmixing
Lead Architects: Shen Zhuang, Hao Ren, Yu Tang, and Jie Zhu
Design Team: Jie Zhu, Shiyu You, Qian Liu, Jingjing Wang, and Yonghao Xu
Structural Engineers: Shanghai Wildness Structural Des. Firm Inc.
Engineers: Zhongcheng Architectural Design Co., Ltd.
Facade Engineers: Everich Decoration & Engineering Co., Ltd.
Intelligent Design: Sieland Digital Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd.
General Constructor: Jiangsu Kaixiang Construction Group Co., Ltd.
Client: Kunshan City Construction Investment & Development Group Co., Ltd.
Photographers: Qingshan Wu