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JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING https://doi.org/10.1080/13467581.2022.2145211 Appropriation of Taihu stone and its formal evolution in Wang Shu’s architecture Mingyue Zhang and Jin Baek Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Received 13 May 2022 The traditional Chinese gardens are an essential source of inspiration for Wang Shu’s architec- Accepted 4 November 2022 tural creations. Taihu stone is a porous, irregularly shaped rock used to compose mountain landscapes in traditional gardens, which informs the architectural interpretation of Wang’s KEYWORDS gardening philosophy. This paper illuminates Wang’s design approach, in particular the way he Taihu stone; traditional abstracts the shape and form of Taihu stone in his works creating architecture that embodies Chinese garden; Wang Shu’s the qualities of tradition. We examine seven of his architectural works built between 2003 and design; formal aesthetic; 2018 where the architect used the Taihu stone in two principal manners. The first is a formal surface intervention conceptualisation that is reflected in the overall form of the building named “Taihu-house”. A total of 19 “Taihu-houses” were founded in Wang’s works through three strategies: addition, insertion, and subtraction, of which the “addition” including 14 “Taihu-houses” is the most representative design. The second is using the Taihu stone as an inspiration for surface design such as the shape of windows or doors. Several walls with stone-shaped openings are further used to recreate a traditional promenade experience. Wang’s application of Taihu stone in his architectural works creates continuity with the traditional values of Chinese architecture while working within a modern aesthetic. 1. Introduction plastic creation, in which the Ningbo History Museum imitates the natural geometry of large mountains in 1.1. Background and AIM traditional landscape paintings such as Fuan Kuan’s Ji Cheng, a Ming Dynasty architect, suggested that Travelers Among Streams and Mountains (Wang 2009). there are no gardens without stones and no stones The building – the geological texture, the precipitous without gardens (Liu 2015). This implies that the artifi - walls, and rocky outlines – embody Wang’s philosophy cial mountainous landscape built of stones is the most that the built environment should narrate about the essential component of traditional garden composi- natural forms and integrate into the natural surround- tion when juxtaposed with the other major elements: ings (Edward and Guang 2012). architecture, water, and plants (Peng 1988). In tradi- The Ningbo History Museum represents Wang’s tional Chinese philosophy and culture, the shanshui design approach to the “big mountain” and his small- idea (literally mountains and water) is presented as scaled building employs another formal philosophy on a theme and symbol to incarnate the ideal harmony the natural stone form (Wang 2009). Then, the Taihu between nature and humans (Ping and Ozawa 2021). stone echoes this idea due to its entire form, which is The reinterpretation of the mountain element is very shaped like a reduced version of the mountain. It is the relevant in today’s debate topic of exploring the con- most famous type of stone that has been used for tinuity of traditional gardens in modern architecture. garden mountain landscapes (Hardie 1988). Wang The contemporary Chinese architect Wang Shu, the abstracted and transformed its unique, variable shape 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, has been com- and form to create an overall building form in mitted to research on the modernization of traditional a modernistic approach. As Mohsen Mostafavi stated gardens. As he explained in To Build a House (2016), “in that the combination of Chinese and Western tradi- the architecture of traditional Chinese literati, there are tions with new and old influences creates a unique more important things than building houses.” In other fusion of different sensibilities, However, Wang’s words, Wang’s architectural philosophy echoes tradi- designed buildings are deeply rooted in modernism tional garden aesthetics since he considers that natural (Perlez 2012). In other words, his design approach to elements such as water and mountains are more rethinking the Taihu stone has become a paradigm to important than buildings (Wang 2016). Especially the echo this issue. This article aims to illuminate Wang mountain element has influenced his architectural Shu’s approach to design by investigating how Taihu CONTACT Jin Baek firstname.lastname@example.org Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Seoul National University, Seoul, 08826, Republic of Korea © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group on behalf of the Architectural Institute of Japan, Architectural Institute of Korea and Architectural Society of China. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 2 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK stone is re-used and re-imagined in Wang’s work reviv- 2. Method ing the continuity of traditional Chinese architecture’s This study adopts the case studies method to explore values. this subject matter. Wang’s seven representative pro- jects built between 2003 and 2018 are collected for the following analysis. Those projects include Five Scattered 1.2. Review Houses (2003–06), Xiangshan Campus second phase of Previous studies on Wang Shu published in interna- China Academy of Art (2004–07), Ningbo History tional forums or journals often examined his archi- Museum (2003–08), Old Town Conservation of tectural characteristics and design philosophy in the Zhongshan Street (2007–09), Shili Hongzhuang context of Western theories. For instance, Ding Cultural Center (2012–18), Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion (2020) studied the return of repressed subjectivity (2010), and Waterfront and Mountain Residence Hotel in Wang’s architecture, relying on Maurice Merleau- (2013–14). In those works, Taihu stone is transformed in Ponty’s emphasis on bodily experience and Michel various ways such as “Taihu-house” forms and Taihu Foucault’s analysis of power. Chau (2018) inter- stone-inspired openings. This research carefully ana- preted Wang Shu’s design as an ecological practice lyses those buildings and investigates how these differ - according to the phenomenological theory of ent Taihu stone concepts work with other architectural Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and elements to form Wang’s contemporary garden Juhani Pallasmaa. Moreover, some studies have dis- architecture. cussed Wang’s architecture practice and design ele- ments in terms of Western critical regionalism The remainder of this study is organised as follows (Thorsten 2009; Wang 2018; Zhu, Sun, and Zhang (Figure 1). In section 3, it reviews the spatial character- 2021), architectural urban topology (Jin 2021; Yu, istics and two design methods of Taihu stone in tradi- Zhang, and Wang 2017), and western architectural tional Chinese gardens. Section 4, clarifies the avant-garde theory (Chau 2015). However, little reinterpretation of Taihu stone in architectural moder- attention has been paid to the design ideology of nity by focusing on Wang’s understanding of natural mountain imagery in traditional Chinese gardens stone form. In sections 5 and 6, this research seeks to embodied in his architecture. To further discuss analyses the practice of Taihu stone in the architect’s the architect’s comprehension of the garden moun- several designs in terms of its two general manners: tain element, this study focuses on the Taihu stone, formal conceptualisation and surface interventions. which is the most representative example of the Simultaneously, this study tries to discuss and explore gardening influence on Wang’s works, and analyse the relevance between the traditional qualities of its formal Taihu-house practice on the architectural Taihu stone and Wang’s designs in the context of plastic design as well as its surface intervention on spatial characteristics and formal innovation, thus elu- window and door openings. cidating the significance of Wang Shu’s design Figure 1. Research methodological framework. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 3 approach with regard to the continuity of traditional landscapes to enhance the atmosphere of the outdoor Chinese architecture’s values in contemporary form space. There are two main methods of using Taihu aesthetic. stone for creating mountain scenery in Chinese gar- dens: Duoshan (掇山 ) for artificial mountains and Zhishi(置石 ) for sculptural rockery landscapes (Wei 3. Taihu stone in the traditional Chinese 2009). garden Traditional Chinese gardens, although built by humans, seek to imitate the beauty of nature created 3.1. Duoshan: big artificial mountain landscape by God (Wu, Chen, and Wu 2012). Rather than organis- Duoshan methodology builds an artificial mountain ing a garden by formal arrangements of natural ele- by piling up many small stones to create a larger ments (conquering nature to the pursuit of artificial artificial mountain landscape (Liu 2015). The princi- beauty), the Chinese garden promotes natural beauty, ples of creating artificial mountains can be under- and subtly combines artificial and natural elements stood only by landscape architects who have (Zhou 2005). In the design of Chinese gardens, there a thorough understanding of traditional garden are four essential elements: rocks, water, buildings design (Liu 2015). The garden architect not only (pavilions), and plants (Bedingfeld 1997). Traditional needs to consider how to create the artificial moun- gardeners always use these elements to build architec- tain, but must also focus on the impact that it will tural landscapes that are in a harmony with nature. For have on visitors and the meaning and spatial atmo- instance, rocks are the main element to compose arti- sphere that the garden radiates. The Duoshan gar- ficial mountain landscapes, and mountains and water dening method offers two ways of experiencing the are considered the key components of the Chinese artificial mountains. The first is to simply appreciate conception of a landscape (Bedingfeld 1997). Taihu- the sculptural scenery of a long, large mountain scene stone is the most famous type of rock that has been where one can walk around the landscape, viewing it used for this purpose since ancient times (Hardie from different angles and distances (Figure 3). 1988). It has an unusual, organic appearance with The second method allows visitors to access the inter- a porous structure formed by water erosion ior of the mountains and experience a different atmo- (Figure 2). The surface holes vary in size and shape sphere by walking up and down the rocks (Figure 4). and form “deep hollows”, “eyeholes”, “twists”, and This kind of design mimics the feeling of climbing “strange grooves” (Liu 2015). Characterized by a natural mountain. The caves that are created in a special form, Taihu stone has high ornamental the rock allow visitors to appreciate views of the value and was well-liked by ancient Chinese artists. Garden architects use various forms of mountain surrounding gardens framed by the stone. Figure 2. Taihu stone bonsai © metropolitan museum of art, CC0, via Wikimedia commons. 4 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK Figure 3. The artificial mountain landscape in the garden of mountain villa with embracing beauty © Wang Xin. All rights reserved. Figure 4. The interior view of the artificial mountain in the garden of mountain villa with embracing beauty © Wang Xin. All rights reserved. method the garden’s architect chooses, the rockery 3.2. Zhishi: single sculptural rockery landscape landscape of the garden is enriched. In contrast, the Zhishi gardening methodology reveals However, it is worth noting that the size of the the natural beauty of the form of the single stone. In this rockery landscape is not a necessary condition to dis- methodology, the mountain landscape is created by tinguish Zhishi and Duoshan. In the Yunlin Stone using a single large stone. The unique shapes and Spectrum of the Song Dynasty, Du Wan writes, “Even high ornamental value of Taihu stone make it a stone with the size of a fist can be comparable to the a popular material as a single rockery in traditional magnificent view of a large mountain. The larger-sized gardens. In his book YuanYe, Ji Cheng claimed that stone can be arranged in the garden, whereas, the such stone can convey the emotions of the garden. small ones can be placed on the table as a bonsai A single Taihu stone can be placed in three different decoration.” (Du 2009) In others words, the artistic ways: “special placement”, “symmetry placement”, and conception of mountains is not limited to large rocks, “scattered placement” (Figure 5) (Shen 2018). In “special as even some small rocks can convey their charm. The placement”, a single Taihu stone is placed in the corner small rocks with mountain shapes can become of the courtyard to create a visual connection with other a rockery landscape work that has the artistic concep- elements of the garden. In “symmetry placement”, two tion of a real mountain (Shen 2018). Taihu stones are placed symmetrically, usually in the center of a courtyard with other, smaller stones being 4. Wang Shu’s gardening philosophy arranged around them. The “scattered placement”, pre- sumes one big Taihu stone placed in the middle of the Wang Shu’s architecture has a close relationship with garden with smaller stones carefully scattered around it traditional gardens. After completing his doctoral to enhance the atmosphere of the garden. Whichever degree from Tongji University, he has been committed JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 5 Figure 5. a: Special placement of Taihu stone in the Yuyuan Garden © Gisling, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; b: Symmetry placement of Taihu stone in the Lion Grove Garden © King of hearts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; c: Scattered placement of Taihu stone in the lion grove garden © King of Hearts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia commons. to research on the modernization of traditional gar- in two manners: architectural formal conceptualisation dens. Wang introduced the “gardening method” for and surface interventions, both of which have been the first time at the UIA (International Union of analysed in this article. Architects) in 1999. As he explained, “The gardening method indicates a transition of consciousness. Gardens are not just gardens, but a kind of method 5. Formal conceptualisation of “Taihu-house” for the architectural creation shifting toward the nat- The irregular surface of Taihu stone pitted with holes ural forms” (Wang 2009). The natural form mentioned was for the first time abstracted by Wang Shu as an here is Wang’s particular interpretation of the garden. architectural mass in his project for the Tea House – In his vision, architecture is a part of imaginary of the one of the Five Scattered Houses(2003–06) in Yinzhou living space of humans. This imaginary belongs Park, Ningbo City. In this building, he inserted an irre- together with natural things: mountains, rocks, plants, gularly shaped brick mass in an overall modern com- and so on, indicating that architecture can share this position in a form of a three-story small-scale building kind of natural form (Wang 2009). In other words, with a six-meter-long, five-meter-wide floor plan. This architecture does not have to follow strict geometry, particular segment of the building Wang named it can resemble mountains and rocks that are not con- “Taihu-house” because of its geometry resembling strained by formal restrictions. Thus, Wang’s architec- the natural form of the stone (Figure 6) (Wang 2019). tural design embodies a narrative of natural forms. The “Taihu-house” in Ningbo Tea House is adjoined to Taihu stone is a representative case of the architectur- an “S-shaped” mass made of glass and steel. Here, the alization of natural forms through Wang’s gardening side of the “Taihu-house” extends into the water, philosophy. He believes that “the Taihu stone evokes which reinforces the presence of the “mountain ima- the natural world of Jiangnan traditional garden” gery” of this house. It also responds that the role of the (Wang 2009), and thus, he uses Taihu stone to replicate water element is coordinated with the stone to create the rockery landscape of the gardens. According to the “Shanshui idea” of the traditional garden land- Wang, Taihu stone evokes “intensive mountain aware- scape. On the surface of the “Taihu-house”, Wang Shu ness”. He appreciates its form and spatial qualities and has designed several windows with diverse sizes and uses them in his design works by abstracting and shapes, irregularly arranged, evoking the surface qua- transforming their form and shape. Thus, Taihu stone lities of Taihu stone (Wang 2009). As distinct from the becomes an embodiment of his gardening philosophy Taihu stone, the “Taihu-house” is a small building with by which natural things like mountains and waters are more important than architecture. Therefore, the Taihu a practical function. It is used as a management office stone has become one of Wang’s design motifs applied and the design of windows satisfies the need for 6 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK Figure 6. Taihu-house is inspired by Taihu stone through the method of formal conceptualisation drawn by author. practical light and ventilation. The architect reused this in size comparing the mass itself. The material, the idea in several of his later works usually not designing shape, and the surface of the building evoke the qua- the “Taihu-house” as an independent mass but inte- lities of Taihu stone, yet the form of the building is grating it with other architectural forms as part of rigidly geometric. Similar to the “special placed” Taihu a larger architectural project. These projects reflect stone in the garden, this “Taihu-house” stands out from the shape and form of Taihu stone in various ways, its surroundings. encompassing the “Taihu-house” aesthetic. Building No. 13 incorporates another “Taihu-house”, subtly concealed in the long and narrow courtyard. This “Taihu-house” is three-floor-tall and its form com- 5.1. “Taihu-house” as an independent mass bines the solid and the void mass, just like the natural Taihu stone. Unlike previous “Taihu-houses”, this struc- Wang reused the idea of an independent “Taihu- ture is not an impermeable concrete body with scarce house” element in his project for Building No. 13 in windows – a part of it is a void that integrates a semi- the Xiangshan Campus of China Academy of Art outdoor staircase connecting with the main building (2002–07). This unique, irregularly shaped structure of vertically (Figure 8, a). The surface of the solid is made “Taihu-house”, placed at the corner of Building No. 13, with exposed concrete, imitating natural materials by is visible along the pedestrian road on the campus. Its emphasising the roughness of the surface. A small form is more notably disturbed than it is in the case of pond adjoining the “Taihu-house” is placed in the the Ningbo project’s “Taihu-house”. A part of the ele- middle of the courtyard. However, except on rainy vation is horizontally moved to form a zig-zag-shaped days, this pool is always dry. Rainwater flows into this mass (Figure 7). The retruded part of the elevation, pool during the rainy season through a slightly sloping used as an outdoor terrace, is intersected with floor slab above. The water and “Taihu-house” are a partially outdoor staircase, set up to provide an illuminated by each other, forming a natural landscape experience of change from indoor to outdoor and painting. Corridors that surround the “Taihu-house” and the pond, allow the inhabitants of this space to back to indoor. Nevertheless, the mass of the building enjoy the view reminiscent of a rockery landscape keeps the strict cubic form with all surfaces being close by water in the traditional garden. A similar lay- horizontal or vertical. The facade is made of concrete out can be found in the courtyard of Building No. 15. with a few irregularly arranged windows, insignificant Figure 7. “Taihu-house” at the corner of building No. 13, Xiangshan Campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author). JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 7 Figure 8. a: “Taihu-house” in the courtyard of building No. 13, Xiangshan campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author); b: “Taihu-house” in the courtyard of Building No. 15, Xiangshan Campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author). The “Taihu-house” structure here is facing the main three “Taihu-houses” smaller pavilions near the obser- entrance of the courtyard. Its surface, composed of ver. The water element is located between the large glass and wood, has a different appearance from the mountain mass and the “Taihu-house” structures, house placed in the courtyard of Building No. 13. As keeping the two objects geographically distant. the main landscape theme of this space, a small However, the reflections of these objects in the water enclosed garden planted with trees is placed between bring the two kinds of mountain-shaped elements the “Taihu-house” and entrance, so that this structure together. Two bridges over the water connect the is not directly visually open to visitors but it is looming main mountain-shaped building with the smaller behind the tree canopies (Figure 8), b. This idea can be “Taihu-houses”. Visitors walk on the bridge and move associated with the space composition method of “hid- between the big mountain and three small stone- ing and exposing” present in the traditional gardens, shaped masses scenery that recall a sense of comfort where the hidden elements of the landscape are in landscape. These three “Taihu-houses” give a similar revealed gradually along the path creating the impres- first impression in terms of architectural form, but on sion of the depth in the courtyard. Both of these closer inspection, the orientation, shape, and form of “Taihu-houses” are not put for a high level of functional the windows vary. Each is designed to provide necessity but are placed inside the courtyard to enrich a different view of the scenery from their particular the space. perspective (Wang 2009). Moreover, the windows “Taihu-houses” mentioned above generally have face each other allowing viewers to explore the a rather simple structure, usually made up of three adjoined “Taihu-house” at close range, as well as the cuboid masses where the middle one is translationally distant views of the cityscape and high-rise buildings moved from the vertical axis. In this structure, all sur- beyond. The view from the Taihu-houses evokes the faces are horizontal or vertical. However, the “Taihu- “where one can view” space experience that is fre- house” in Building No. 19 is not restricted by the quently used in traditional Chinese landscape paint- Cartesian frame but rather a free-form mass. As Wang ings. The observing subjects feel the same sense of explained, the form of these three “Taihu-houses” was comfort that they experience when observing the shaped directly according to the Taihu stone’s form mountain scenery in traditional paintings. (Wang 2009). They are more organically modeled and In his following projects, Wang Shu continued closer to the shape of natural geometry. Building using the organically shaped “Taihu-houses”. Old No. 19 is a composition made up of a large mass that Town Conservation of Zhongshan Street (2007–09) resembles the shape of a mountain ridge with three was his next project that encompasses several Taihu “Taihu-houses” placed in front of it (Figure 9). Viewed stone-inspired buildings. Zhongshan Street is from the distance these three “Taihu-houses” appear a commercial street located on the north-south axis negligible comparing with the large mountain-shaped of Lin-an (临安 ) city, which was the capital of the Song mass. It can be inferred that the inspiration for this Dynasty. Wang Shu designed a one-kilometer land- architectural composition comes from the lofty scen- scape of Zhongshan Street, from West Lake Avenue to ery of Chinese landscape paintings, with the main the Drum Tower. In this project, the architect refer- building representing a distant mountain, and the enced the street’s historical background by using 8 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK Figure 9. Three different “Taihu-houses” forms are placed in front of Building No. 19, Xiangshan campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author). traditional materials and forms, and, thus, created walls and large glass windows with hanging staircases a place that evokes people’s memory of old cities make a strong contrast to the brick wall retaining old (Wang 2016). The unique architectural forms of doors and windows. The irregular mass of “Taihu- “Taihu-house” buildings that conjure the shape of houses” with stone-shaped forms also contrasts with Taihu stones are used widely in this street. They the regularly-shaped brick wall. Here, the traditional have become landmarks that are put to a variety of and the modern forms, as well as the new and the old uses, including offices, tea shops, and travel and tour- materials blend into a harmonious whole. Moreover, ist centers. In two of the “Taihu-houses” constructed the placement of the two Taihu-houses echoes the on top of a historical brick wall, the architect used the “symmetry placement” strategy of Taihu stone in tra- modern material of concrete to achieve their unique ditional gardens. The combination of forms, styles, form (Figure 10). These small-scale buildings cleverly and materials exemplifies Wang Shu’s philosophy combine traditional elements with modern materials that modern cities should not seek to create an creating an interesting and dynamic juxtaposition. entirely new aesthetic by removing all references to Their distinct modern forms composed of concrete their unique heritage. Figure 10. Two “Taihu-houses” are placed closely at the major intersection, old town conservation of Zhongshan Street (2007–09), Hangzhou (photo by author). JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 9 Shili Hongzhuang Cultural Center (2012–17) in modern architectural design with the structural forms Ninghai city is Wang Shu’s recently completed project of traditional Chinese gardens and at the same time built to display the traditional marriage custom culture not losing sight of the building’s practical needs. of the Chinese Jiangnan area. This large architectural complex includes five “Taihu-houses”, distributed across the complex and used for different functions. 5.2. “Taihu-house” integrating with other In these five projects, Wang reused the initial simple architectural forms “Taihu-house” idea, rather than the more organic In the above projects, Wang used the “Taihu-house” as stone-resembling structure from later works. Their sur- an independent stone-resembling mass or a kind of faces composed of red brick and windows varying in “addition” attached to the main building. However, the sizes are the most notable features of these five “Taihu- “Taihu-house” can be integrated with other architec- houses”. The red brick symbolises festivity, related to tural forms not as an “addition” but as an “insertion” traditional Chinese marriage culture. Upon entering element. For instance, this inserted structure occurs on the complex, a large courtyard that contains a bridge the east elevation of Building No. 13 in the Xiangshan and a pond surrounded by trees appears. One of the Campus. Compared to the first “Taihu-house” with an five “Taihu-houses”, formed by three cuboid masses of overall solid form, this structure has a lighter appear- similar size, is adjacent to the water (Figure 11). The ance. It consists of a thick concrete outline resembling three masses of the “Taihu-house” are stacked one the Taihu stone defining an inner void used as an over another creating a vertically asymmetrical com- outdoor deck (Figure 12), a. In front of the building, position. Its three-story-tall form creates a powerful the architect placed a bridge and a pond rendering the contrast to the other mainly single-story buildings in deck a good place to enjoy the outside scenery. In this the garden. Furthermore, the red brick material of this imaginary, being inside the deck is equated with being “Taihu-house” contrasts the grey brick of the surround- inside a Taihu stone in the traditional garden. The ing buildings rendering it the most noticeable element elevation of Building No. 18 also features a “Taihu- of the complex. In traditional gardens, elements such house” mass is inserted into a regular cubic frame in as towers, terraces, and pavilions provide the best view a similar manner (Figure 12), b. However, it is different of the surroundings. In this complex, the “Taihu-house” from the “Taihu-house” in Building No. 13, as it is takes on this role. From the first floor, visitors get a close-up view of the pond with its flourishing plants a solid structure. The surface of this “Taihu-house” is while the third floor provides a wide vista across the made of dark wood, masterly coordinated with the entire architectural complex and the mountain scenery surroundings. The wood colour makes an extraordin- beyond. In general, the “Taihu-house” abstractly uses ary contrast to the dense green plants in the corner of the shape of the Taihu stone in artistic form. It is built the building. Well blended into the surroundings, this on top of a pond scenery to blend in with the water, elevation has become a symbol of Building No. 18. creating a landscape of traditional “mountain-water” The south façade of Building 18 also encompasses gardening. But in terms of the architectural function, it the idea of “Taihu-house”, however, in a completely is used as a tea room and artist studio, and thus new form. The long white façade incorporates a large intimately connected to people’s daily activities that number of irregular openings with several recesses the people working in the building often forget its shaped like a “Taihu-house” (Figure 13). This idea of overall stone-shaped appearance. This perfectly encap- subtracting, where the Taihu-house becomes a void in sulates Wang Shu’s approach to design, combining the larger mass was for the first time applied in this Figure 11. The “Taihu-house” faced the water in Shili Hongzhuang cultural center (2012–18), Ninghai © Zhao Sai. All rights reserved. 10 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK Figure 12. a: “Taihu-house” in the elevation of Building No. 13, Xiangshan Campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author) b: “Taihu-house” in the elevation of Building No. 18, Xiangshan Campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author). Figure 13. “Taihu-house” form in the main surface of Building No. 18, Xiangshan Campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author). project. The relationship of the “Taihu-house” with the the main entrance is designed as a simple, 30-meter- subject changes here. In the previous projects, the wide opening in the middle of the building’s mass. subject is outside of the Taihu mass, an external obser- However, on the other side, a small “cave” resembling ver. In this project, the subject is inside the Taihu mass the “Taihu-house” form is used as an exit of the build- looking toward the outside, fashioning the experience ing (Figure 14). Here Wang repeated the idea of sub- similar to the traditional gardens’ penetrable mountain tracting the “Taihu-house” from the main building landscapes. Moreover, the façade incorporates a path mass. The form of this building, its texture, and the in a form of a ramp enhancing the walkability of the cave-like openings embody Wang’s philosophy that space. The “Taihu-house” recesses, as transitional the built environment should narrate about the natural spaces, connect the interior of the building with the forms and integrate into the natural surroundings. external hanging promenade. This space forms out- door decks where people can rest, relax and enjoy the view of Building No. 19 “mountain ridge”, and the 5.3. Strategies of “Taihu-house” forms city beyond. A similar concept of subtracted Taihu According to the above, regarding Wang’s design pro- mass Wang applied in the design for the north cess, the architect firstly formally conceptualises the entrance of Ningbo Museum (2003–07). The overall natural Taihu stone in the shape of a more geometrically form of this building imitates the natural geometry of rigid “Taihu-house”, and then uses this element either as large mountains in landscape paintings such as Fuan an independent mass or to create an intervention in the Kuan’s Travelers Among Streams and Mountains (Wang main building mass (Figure 15). These strategies evoke 2009). Ningbo Museum is designed to resemble a fragment of a continuous mountain ridge that resem- the traditional gardens in a different manner and have bles a silhouette of a city (Wang 2009). In this building, a different relationship with the subject. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 11 Figure 14. “Taihu-house” form Ningbo Museum (2003–08), Ningbo (photo by author). Figure 15. Taihu-house form is used in two manners. Type 1 is used as an independent mass; Type 2 is used to create an intervention in the larger mass (diagram by author). From the projects above, there are several design to those more irregularly shaped with large glass strategies that Wang uses in his design to evoke the facades (Building No. 19 in the Xiangshan Campus, qualities of traditional gardens. These strategies Old Town Conservation of Zhongshan Street). assume reviving the visual qualities of the traditional Apart from creating “Taihu-house” as an indepen- gardens in the use of materials and forms, in particular dent mass, Wang used this element to enrich his the use of “Taihu-house” mass. The “Taihu-houses” design in other manners – adding it and subtracting designed by Wang Shu, generally have a three-floor- it from the main building mass. In some projects, the tall volume but they subtly vary in forms and materials Taihu-house mass is not simply added to the mass of and can be applied in several manners. In his initial the building but rather inserted into the façade attempts, he used the strategy of addition where expanding its spatiality. The insertion method, applied “Taihu-house” is added to the mass of the building as in the elevation of Building No. 13 and 18, Xiangshan an independent element. In this composition, the Campus, still envisions “Taihu-house” as a solid mass, “Taihu-house” mass is taller than the other mass, and here less dominant, placed within a larger architectural its prominent shape creates a contrast with the sim- frame. plistic form of the other mass. It can be recognized as An inversion of this idea appears in Building No. 18, a point of decoration for the whole building. Seen from Xiangshan Campus, and the north entrance form of the outside, this mass stands out from the surround- Ningbo Museum, where Wang applied the subtraction ings making an impression similar to a “specially method. In these projects, the “Taihu-house” mass is placed” Taihu stone in a garden. “Taihu-house” itself subtracted from a bigger cuboid mass. The resulting had an evolution in Wang’s design, from strict, cubic, subtracted void is used mostly as a deck space – and impermeable forms made with concrete or brick a threshold between interior and exterior. Perforating (Ningbo Tea House, Buildings No. 13 and No. 15 in the the massive walls of the building with these recesses of Xiangshan Campus, Shili Hongzhuang cultural center) a particular shape, the architect created an impression 12 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK of the natural porous rock. It is worth noting that these Despite being artificially made the openings on the different strategies also evoke different relationships of buildings’ bases made of rock have a natural appear- the subject with the garden. When “Taihu-house” from ance. The patterns of light and shade that are created impermeable solid becomes an inhabitable void it in this way are something that visitors can enjoy. The changes the relationships with the subject. It becomes desire to create such aesthetic experiences was very a Duoshan setting, where one can enter inside the much to the fore of Wang Shu’s mind when he “rock” and enjoy the view toward the outside. designed the architecture of buildings No. 13 and No. 15. The irregularly shaped voids on their facades provide a “picture frame” for the outdoor scene 6. Surface interventions inspired by Taihu beyond the walls of the building, creating the impres- stone sion of looking out at a traditional Chinese garden. From the inner courtyard of these buildings, it is pos- 6.1. Shaping windows and doors sible to observe how the balance and contrast The preceding part of the article examines Wang Shu’s between light and shade change throughout the day. use of the Taihu stone in the formal conceptualization. However, Wang also employs the concept of Taihu stone in the surface interventions, in a new manner. 6.2. A tour passes through windows and doors The windows and doors with the form and shape of The idea of walls perforated with Taihu stone- Taihu stone have become a signature of Wang’s design resembling openings, Wang Shu reused in his projects approach. In Building No. 13 and No. 15 in the for Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion (2010) and Waterfront Xiangshan Campus, the façade is decorated with and Mountain Residence Hotel (2013–14). In both of a number of irregularly shaped window-like resem- these buildings, the architect used a similar design bling a silhouette of a Taihu stone (Figure 16). Their approach with many fragments of walls being placed uniqueness leaves a deep impression on the visitors of along a designed movement line, within a cuboid the campus. The natural light passes through these openings, creating unique shades on the ground and framework. walls of the courtyard behind the façade. When staying Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion was firstly built in the inside of the courtyard, these shades evoke the visitor’s northern part of the Urban Best Practice Zone in imagination of traditional mountain landscapes. Shanghai Expo Park in 2010. Wang’s design of this Wang’s inspiration for this spatial experience was building was inspired by a demolished Tengtou derived from the traditional Chinese gardens. Village in the Jiangnan area of China. After Expo, According to his book To Build a House, he had been Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion was removed but rebuilt in visiting traditional gardens in Suzhou every year since another place – the location near the original Tengtou 2000, and he singled out the Canglang Pavilion as his Village. The exterior wall of Tengtou encompasses the favourite garden from which he had derived a great traditional elements of Chinese Jiangnan vernacular deal of inspiration for his design approach (Wang dwellings, with more than five hundred thousand 2016). KanShanLou (看山樓 ) and CuiLingLong (翠玲 pieces of demolished tiles reused in this facade. The 瓏 ) are two buildings located close by in the surface of thick concrete walls in the interior of the Canglang Pavilion garden, and there are rockery struc- exhibition hall is emphasised with a special texture tures at the bottom of those two buildings. Both of made by using bamboo cast in the production process. these rockeries have doorways and windows bearing In this manner, Wang created a new architectural form the characteristic Taihu stone shape (Figure 17). by using elements of traditional building techniques. Figure 16. Facade of Building No. 13, Xiangshan Campus (2002–07), Hangzhou (photo by author). JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 13 Figure 17. a: Inside view of the artificial mountain in the Kanshanlou building © Wang Xin. All rights reserved; b: Inside view of the artificial mountain in the Cuilinglong building © Wang Xin. All rights reserved. But the most striking intervention is hidden in the create an experience reminiscent of a walk in the interior of the building. Visitors to the Pavilion are mountains, and for this reason, the ramp rises and directed along a designated route – a curved and falls much like a mountain path. During the walk, undulating ramp that coincides with the main flow of visitors can pause and admire the views of the sur- pedestrian traffic. Walking along this meandering rounding city framed by the uniquely shaped doors ramp, visitors can pass through the whole building and windows. This spatial experience is the most out- from the first to the second floor, and then again standing aspect of the Tengtou Pavilion. descend toward the exit. Along the ramp, the building A similar spatial strategy Wang Shu used in the is divided into eight segments by the walls that contain design for Waterfront and Mountain Residence Hotel sizeable openings mimicking the shapes found in (2013–14) that was recently built in the Xiangshan Taihu stones (Figure 18). The architect intended to Campus. This long building is divided into four distinct Figure 18. A tour pass through several walls with Taihu stone-shaped openings, Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion (2010) (diagram by author). 14 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK Figure 19. Taihu stone-shaped opening, Waterfront and Mountain Residence Hotel (2013–14), Hangzhou (photo by author). sections from east to west, each having a specific func- in between. The staircase leads to the roof garden. tion – a tea lounge, a conference space, a restaurant, Similar to Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion, this garden is and a hotel. The three-storey structure used for the divided into smaller segments by six walls, each with hotel of this building has a similar form to Ningbo a uniquely shaped doorway reminiscent of a Taihu Tengtou Pavilion. The hotel has three levels. The first stone (Figure 20). The walls are strategically positioned and second floors consist of a lobby and standard to create a meandering pathway between various rooms, while the third floor encompasses an outdoor spaces providing visitors with a sequence of different garden, a conference room, and a deluxe lounge area. spatial experiences. An open staircase that connects the first floor with the third floor, located behind the main façade, has a very 6.3. Two types of walls large Taihu stone-shaped opening toward the outside (Figure 19). Alongside this staircase, there is a close-up One of the pavilions in the landscape of Zhongshan view of the stream in the front of the building, the Street also contains elements inspired by Taihu stone. skyline of the city in the background, and the campus This free-standing Pavilion is located in the middle of Figure 20. A tour pass through several walls with Taihu stone-shaped openings, Waterfront and Mountain residence hotel (diagram by author). JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 15 Figure 21. Pavilion in the old town conservation of Zhongshan Street (2007–09), Hangzhou (photo by author). the pedestrian street with commercial shops and is several manners. Taihu stone-shaped openings that used as a rest space for tourists. It is simply composed Wang uses in his buildings originate from the tra- of three elements: two pieces of walls on each side ditional artificial mountain landscapes. He reused and a ceiling on top (Figure 21). The form of the walls this element in the façade design to recreate the is designed by abstracting the overall appearance of spatial experience of garden pavilions. In addition, Taihu stone using two opposite strategies. One of the these openings connect the internal scenery with walls is designed with an irregular form resembling the outside space, awakening the experience of the shape of Taihu stone. In contrast, the other wall accessing the interior of the mountain landscapes has an external regular form, but it has an opening in in the gardens. Wang applied this type of design in the form of a Taihu stone. In this figure-ground play, the interior as well. However, the perforated walls Wang Shu used the traditional Chinese thinking, of here have a different function – fashioning the two opposite principles of nature – yin-yang. In this space experience through movement. This experi- relatively small urban intervention, Wang created ence that he attempts to create is similar to the a striking landmark bringing traditional spirit into experience of walking inside the artificial mountain modern architecture. in a traditional garden. An inversion of this wall strategy appears in the design for the Zhongshan Street Pavilion, where one of the walls is the result 6.4. Strategies of Taihu stone-shaped openings of an intersection between an imagined Taihu stone and the sidewall, while the other is designed As an inspiration for surface design, Taihu stone by subtracting the Taihu stone element from the has been employed in Wang Shu’s architecture in 16 M. ZHANG AND J. BAEK Table 1. Comprehensive analysis of Taihu stone’s formal evolution form in Wang Shu’s architecture. wall. The juxtaposition of these two walls embo- strategies of addition, insertion, and subtraction. In dies the traditional Chinese philosophy of the two particular, the “addition” principle of “Taihu-house” principles of nature – yin-yang. The former repre- evokes the methods of “special placement” of Taihu stone in the gardens. Surface interventions such as sents presence, while the latter represents the perforating walls with Taihu stone-shaped openings absence of the stone. appear on both, the exterior and interior walls, creating different kinds of experiences for the users. Especially, the space sequences created by walls with such open- 7. Conclusion ings seek to recreate the feeling of walking in the Since ancient times, Taihu stone has been renowned mountains. material used for creating artistic and architectural With the characteristic forms and shapes of Taihu works. In particular, it is widely used in traditional stone, the architect manages to capture the essence gardens to build sculptural rockery and artificial moun- and spirit of the traditional Chinese garden. By using tain landscapes applying the methods of Duoshan and the Taihu stone as an inspiration for the design strate- Zhishi. Wang Shu’s design approach has been influ - gies presented above, Wang Shu not only visually enced by these two traditional landscaping methods, evokes the traditional gardens but also recreates in particular the idea of spatial sequence, surface a spatial experience of the garden. He does this by design, and the “special placement” of the Taihu stone. creating paths, caves, framed views, and sculptural The Taihu stone has become Wang’s design theme structures combining visitors’ bodies into his “garden- in two manners: in architectural form conceptualisa- ing experience”. Juxtaposing such traditional shapes tion and surface design (Table 1). This study has iden- with modern architecture Wang Shu successfully tified seven of Wang Shu’s works where he utilized the merges the old with the new, making a valuable con- natural shape of Taihu stone as an inspiration. The tribution to architecture in modern China. Wang’s form and the aesthetic of these buildings have become design approach that assumes the translation of tradi- a signature of his designs. In the conceptualisation of tional garden elements to modern buildings provides architectural forms, he used the “Taihu-house” element an exemplar of the successful practice of blending implementing it in the buildings’ mass through traditions into contemporary Chinese architecture. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 17 Disclosure statement Culture 8 (3–4): 433–451. doi:10.1080/20507828.2020. No potential conflict of interest was reported by the Du, W. translated by Y. Y. Chen. 2009. Yunlin Stone Spectrum. author(s). Chongqing: Chongqing Publishing. Edward, D., and Y. Guang. 2012. “The Reluctant Architect: An Interview with Wang Shu of Amateur Architects Studio.” Architectural Design 82 (6): 122–129. doi:10. Funding 1002/ad.1506. This work was supported by the BK21 FOUR(Fostering Ji, C. translated by A. Hardie. 1988. Craft of Gardens (Ji Cheng, Outstanding Universities for Research) Project in 2022. Ming Dynasty). New Haven and London: Yale University Press. (No.4120200113771) Jin, X. 2021. “Text-Structure-Typology, from Language Metaphor to “Fictionalising” Culture: A Critique of WANG Shu’s Architectural Thesis.” Design, and Pedagogy, Architect 1: 26–33. Notes on contributors Liu, C. 2015. Yuanye (Original Author Ji Cheng, Ming Dynasty). Nan Jing: Jiangsu Phoenix Literature and Art Publishing . Mingyue Zhang is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of Peng, Y. 1988. Analysis of Chinese Classical Gardens. Beijing: Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Seoul National China Architecture & Building Press. University. She received Master of Science in Architecture Perlez, J. 2012. “An Architect’s Vision: Bare Elegance in China”. and Architectural Engineering from Seoul National The New York Time, August 9. Accessed 20 December 2021. University. She is currently researching the continuity and https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/arts/design/wang- transformation of tradition by articulating the characteristics shu-of-china-advocates-sustainable-architecture.html? of the traditional Chinese garden and their influence on the pagewanted=1&_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_ conception and design of contemporary architecture. email@example.com Ping, H., and T. Ozawa. 2021. “Composition of water-featured Jin Baek is a full professor at the Department of Architecture Open Spaces on Chinese University Campuses.” Journal of and Architectural Engineering, Seoul National University. He Asian Architecture and Building Engineering 20 (6): 615–626. graduated from Seoul National University (B.S.), Yale doi:10.1080/13467581.2020.1803077. University (M.A.), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.). Shen, M. 2018. “Archetypal Refinement of the Classical Before joining the Department of Architecture and Gardens in the South of the Yangtze River and Design Architectural Engineering, Seoul National University, he Transformation in Contemporary Architecture: Taking taught and researched at various institutions including Taihu stone as an Example.” unpublished master’s thesis, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Tokyo. Nanjing: Southeast University. 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Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering – Taylor & Francis
Published: May 4, 2023
Keywords: Taihu stone; traditional Chinese garden; Wang Shu’s design; formal aesthetic; surface intervention
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