15 Biennale di Venezia. A Celebration of Everyday Life
The exhibition, placed inside the Central Pavilion, present a model of the West Village Basis Yard in Chengdu.
Curated by Liu Jiakun
Located in a recently urbanized area to the north-west of the capital of the Sichuan province, West Village Basis Yard is a huge urban complex containing diverse public life as well as marketplace scenarios. Covering an entire block, measuring 237mx178m with buildings of a maximum rise of 24 m., the complex is set among high-rise residential blocks, home to sweeping communities.
Architect Liu Jiakun, active in China since the mid-1990s, embraces an unvarnished and functional approach in his work as a way to counteract the centralising and glossy appearance of most commercially oriented contemporary architecture. Liu Jiakun and his team shaped the project following an architectural language that foregrounds attention to collective living and daily life content, respectful of cultural traditions and of people’s need to share living spaces. West Village responds to the need of vitalizing the public life of the surrounding communities, yet sustaining itself.
Originally the grounds hosted a golf course and a swimming hall, that was preserved by Jiakun architects; the whole area was turned into a centre that integrates, organically and functionally, multiple activities including sports, artistic events, leisure activity as well as creative and fashion industry with spaces for commercial use.
The essential functions of the building determine its morphology, which intentionally reveals the underlying structure of the construction. The building runs with an uninterrupted sequence of wide horizontal floors, two full stories underground and five to six above ground from three sides, east, south and west. The internal façade has continuous balconies that allow view of the internal courtyard. On the exterior façade, the commercial spaces are set back in the outreached, continuous veranda, that forms a public walkway and generates a homogeneous jet lively marketplace experience.
The north side is defined by dogleg ramps, which connect the internal with the outside space. The ramps can be used to reach the upper floors and constitute at once a defining architectural feature and a sports’ facility as cycling circuit or jogging path along 1600m, entwining the whole yard and connecting each floor of the building to the roof, a design that gives the project a dynamic look.
Along the roof a walkway is dotted with pavilions, bridges, galleries and sight-viewing platforms, traditionally used in local landscape design, that are here translated into contemporary language for modern lifestyle.
The marked horizontal structure of the project maximizes the unusually large interior space of 26,000 square meters. Key features include three big sports fields located in the centre, surrounded by a green basin of bamboo courtyards, squares, tea houses and more intimate spaces, where different species of bamboo were employed as a representation of the original low-land landscape of Sichuan Basin, allowing for public as well as more intimate leisure areas.
The attention to low-cost and environmental needs, as well as respect for local tradition are also the project’s defining features. Subscribing to the creative solution of “low-tech strategy”, Liu Jiakun emphasizes the importance of using simple techniques at a lower cost, as well as honoring history and culture.
Rebirth bricks are employed in a variety of applications such as landscape flooring, building gables and courtyard walls. High resistance reconsolidated bamboo are used for balcony handrails, and locally-handmade bamboo pallet as template for the concrete’s surface, recalling local vegetation. The roof of the complex is paved with macrospore rebirth bricks that filled with earth can be used for urban agriculture.