A Chinese Community Center

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Virginia Tech

Emerging more than 3000 years ago - an era of hermit culture in China - private gardens played an important role in the development of Chinese culture. In this thesis, the essence of Chinese private gardens, especially the principles of their spatial organization, is used to direct the design.

In a Chinese garden, the aim of spatial design was to create an experience of variety and change in a highly limited space. Gardens normally were made up of a series of spatial units, each with its own function and distinguishing characteristics through skilled manipulation of spaces, materials and plants.

This Chinese Community Center was designed for the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, the largest international organization on the campus of Virginia Tech. As the joining of the eastern and western culture, the building was designed by syncretizing the spatial organization of Chinese gardens and the form and material of western modern architecture.

In my design, three units were introduced into the building. As to the spatial layout of the building, the garden was an open space; the exhibition area was enclosed; and the entrance corridor unit was partly open and partly enclosed as a transition. Three units organized the inter-penetrative spaces, integrating spatial units of different types and forms, and achieving diversity, contrast and harmony.

Perforated aluminum panels with Chinese patterns were introduced into the entrance area to create a semi-open space, which gave the impression of Chinese architecture and culture identity. The method of the borrowing of scenery was also introduced in this unit. From the framed gate at the entrance, the balcony at the end of the building was connected visually with the beginning. At this point, the perforated panels contrasted with the solid concrete wall, symbolizing the contrast between tradition and modernity in time and space. Also, following the principle of Chinese gardens, two choices of touring the building were provided to visitors at the entrance: by entering the hall of the building or by going down to the garden directly by way of the wood stairs.

The enclosed concrete unit served as the exhibition area, introducing Chinese culture and architecture to visitors. An interior bamboo garden was arranged in the middle of the unit, connecting the lower and upper levels. The color and the fragrance of bamboo were borrowed from the nature, being the focus of the whole unit. The two-story high tea area faced the trianglar bamboo garden outside, conveying a quiet feeling. Staying in the modern space with traditional Chinese culture and plants will be a great feeling for visitors, touching the spirits of antiquity and today at the same time.

The open garden space in the center connected and separated the enclosed unit and semi-open unit. Because water in a garden was the artistic simulation of natural lakes in the basic concepts of Chinese gardens, a shallow water pond was arranged in the garden close to the main hall of the building, occupying one corner in the garden. A trianglar bamboo garden occupied another corner, leaving the central part for activities.

Looking at the design as a whole, the paradox is that the three units were spatial divisions on the one hand, and at the same time spatial linkages on the other. Out of this complexity, the visitors will be delighted by the changing views as they stroll from one part of the building to another.

Chinese gardens, harmony, community center, diversity, contrast