THE WALL, CHILDRENS’ TEACHING RESTAURANT
- Location: Xiamutang, China
- Client: AHO
- Phase: Built
- Year: 2019
- Collaborators: The Scarcity and Creativity Studio, AHO and Tianjin University
China’s explosive growth has been fuelled by a large rural to urban migration which has left large parts of the countryside depopulated. At present China is losing around 300 rural villages per day and the Chinese government is looking for rural development models capable of preserving rural life, considered the foundation of traditional Chinese culture and values.
Xiamutang is a village located in south-eastern China, and The China Building Centre and the Urban Environment Design magazine have taken over its transformation into a child centred attraction. Today Xiamutang offers accommodation in rehabilitated farmers’ houses, restaurant, shop, tea-house, bar, and other facilities.
In 2019 AHO’s Scarcity and Creativity Studio (SCS) and Tianjin University’s School of Architecture were invited to design and build a teaching restaurant for children aged 6 to 12 years, that would offer cooking courses consisting in picking vegetables from nearby fields, washing them, preparing them, cooking them, and eating them. The project was developed through an experimental, trans-continental cooperation, which involved design, production, and building.
The site for the project is located between the village of Xiamutang and surrounding agricultural fields, on a steep and narrow site containing mature camphor trees. These conditions, added to the fact that the site was not much larger than the program to be housed, defined the design concept. Five free standing parallel walls run along the contours of the site, stepping down to follow the site’s topography. In between these walls are the functions of the building: a store, a kitchen, a dining room, and adjoining external spaces.
Each wall is free standing and cantilevering from reinforced concrete foundations on clay soil. The walls are built of hollow concrete blocks with reinforced concrete columns inside. The walls are rendered, inside and out, in sand and white-cement pigmented with ferric oxide, to produce a distinctive ‘Chinese’ red, ubiquitous in historic buildings, such as The Forbidden City in Beijing, and symbolic of happiness in Chinese culture.
Reinforced concrete slabs, finished in a trowelled screed, form the floors. The roof structure is made of timber ‘crosses’ which result in a roof with a central gutter, and double-layered skylights along each wall. Fully openable glass assemblies close the dining and kitchen spaces at both ends, extending them out into adjoining nature.
Degree of freedom has provided structural and practical construction experience to design and realise the building.
Images © The Scarcity and Creativity Studio, AHO