The Screen

While working for Chinese architect Li Xiaodong, the recipient of the inaugural Moriyama Prize, we completed this building with an elaborate brickwork facade to create offices and dormitories at a building site in Zhejiang Province.

It is the first building of a larger development, so we where  tasked with designing both offices and accommodation for the team that will build the rest of the complex. The concept was for a structure that impacts on the landscape as little as possible. To be able to appreciate and respect the pristine site in Dichen Valley in its totality, we proposed a series of carefully placed architectural interventions to create a route of pure and distinct landscape experiences.

The building sits on the flattest section of the mountain slope. The majority of the structure is single storey, but a smaller second storey was created towards the northern end of the site, where the ground level drops by around three metres. The facade is perforated wall that at first glance appears to be made from concrete, but on closer inspection is revealed to be a complex brick grid that combines a traditional local craft technique with modern engineering.

We thus take a known, familiar concept, such as the solid brick wall, and instead we create a floating, permeable and open screen of bricks around the perimeter. This thus creates a contemporary response in line with the local Chinese conception of space, in which mass and context are not solid objects, but become a series of linked, permeable environments.

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