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Shui Cultural Center, Guizhou Provinz, China, West-Line Studio

Gateway to the Land of the Shui: Cultural Centre by West-Line Studio

West-Line Studio is an architectural office that works exclusively in China’s Guizhou Province. Before starting the designs for this project, they intensely examined all aspects of Shui culture and traditions.

Although they are a small group, the Shui have their own language and a script with more than 400 pictograms. The most important characters are reflected in the architecture here. The character for mountain is expressed as the three pointed saddle roofs that give the building its shape. Rain can be seen in the entire façade. It consists of bronze-coloured steel plates perforated with a clear pattern of drop shapes, a rather stylized form of the actual pictogram.

The three strip-like roofs all have a slight slope and become flatter towards the back. This gives the building complex an increased presence in the direction of the adjacent river. Bounded by water on three sides, the fourth features a square with water elements. This water landscape leads visitors right to the main entrance of the complex. The Yulong Tower, which houses a traditional bronze drum, stands in front of the Centre, near the entrance. It creates a landmark in the surrounding area.

The basic structure of the building is of concrete, which bears the façade like a skeleton and reveals itself as a precise structure inside. The first of the three roofs is home to a hall of rituals fitted with colourful panes of glass. Light falls through the perforated façade to create a dramatic, impressive effect that greets visitors as soon as they enter the space.

The second building strip has been kept a bit sleeker. No colours can be seen here; it is the texture of the concrete that predominates. Throughout the entire complex, concrete has been treated to clearly show the traditional wood-building methods of the region by means of the formwork. The roof shelters an open reception hall for events.

All other functions are accommodated in the two storeys of the last, and biggest, part of the building. On the upper level, there are offices; the lower area has a cafeteria, tourist information and sanitary facilities. This is the only part of the complex where the steeply pitched roof is not in evidence, for it limits itself to pure functionality.

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