Eighth Edition 2021-2022
Xu Tiantian – DnA Design and Architecture
Xu Tiantian (Fujian, 1975) gained a Bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua University of Beijing and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. After working in the United States and the Netherlands for OMA, she founded the studio DnA_Design and Architecture in Beijing. In 2006, she received the WA China Architecture Award and in 2008 the Young Architects Award from The Architectural League New York. In 2019 she was awarded the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture. In March 2018, an exhibition about her work, Rural Moves – The Songyang Story, opened at AEDES Architecture Forum in Berlin.
The jury unanimously conferred the Swiss Architectural Award 2022 to Xu Tiantian for the reuse of the Shimen Bridge over the Songyin River (2016-2017), the tofu factory in Caizhai Village (2017-2018), and the reuse of the Jinyun quarries (2021-2022), with the following reasons:
The three works presented by Xu Tiantian, located in both Songyang and Jinyun county (a rural area in Zhejang province (China) characterised by a landscape whose traditional structure has been preserved on the one hand, and on the other threatened by the depopulation process induced by the migration of younger people to the region’s urban centres) convinced the jury for the successful combination between the civic instances animating them (as they aim to serve local communities) and the quality of the proposed architecture, characterised by a marked attention to the context, by a precise and poetic attitude at the same time, and by the blending of different scales and themes, between architecture and infrastructure, between permanent and ephemeral, between reuse and ex-novo intervention.
Reuse of the Shimen Bridge over the Songyin River
Songyang County (China), 2016-2017
In the mountainous regions linking Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces, in addition to being infrastructural elements, bridges are a key part of the cultural heritage and iconic public structures for the local communities. Covered bridges, in particular, roofed to protect their wooden structures, provide pedestrians with shelter from the sun and rain, and often serve as a village’s civic centre and meeting place. This type of infrastructure inspired the renovation of the abandoned Shimen Bridge in Songyang County.
A covered wooden structure has been added over the existing bridge with openings in the roof echoing the rhythm of the bridge arches. It opens out at the centre to form an enlarged platform with rows of trees like an island floating in the river, facing the adjacent ancient thousandyear-old dam. The structure serves as resting place for visitors as well as a footbridge between the villages, Shimen and Shimenyu, on either side of the river. They once formed the same administrative unit, but were later separated by the frequent flooding. The project transforms the infrastructure into a multifunctional public space and contributes to the restoration and preservation of a historic structure closely bound up with the local identity.
Caizhai, Songyang County (China), 2017-2018
Caizhai is a mountain village with a reputation as a centre for the production of the finest tofu in the region. A new factory is planned at the entrance to the village, approached as an acupunctural treatment to upgrade the traditional tofu production, while also integrating the original individual family workshops into a collective economic entity that will operate the new factory.
A system of prefabricated assembly of the timber structure has been adopted to create a dialogue with the vernacular tenon-and-mortis structure of the old wooden farmhouses. A covered walkway invites visitors to watch the traditional method of tofu making, showcased as the village’s intangible cultural heritage. Maintenance of the building is simple, since it adopts natural lighting, natural ventilation, a rainwater collection system and efficient waste-water treatment. With additional cultural and educational programmes, this building has become a popular field-trip workshop for young students. More importantly, the factory is also a social structure, leading to the establishment of two production units, with the villagers as their members: one a production unit to run the factory, the other to grow organic soya beans. The factory has not only inspired a more ecological agriculture, but also transformed the individual farmers’ households into a collective or cooperative to engage with the market economy. Since its completion, the factory with its new production conditions has improved both the quality of the village’s tofu and the prices it gets, and around 30 young villagers have returned home from the cities to join the production unit.
Reuse of the Jinyun Quarries
Jinyun County (China), 2021-2022
Today, reusing and adapting existing spatial resources is seen worldwide as an essential contribution to sustainable development. Revaluing local resources and rediscovering indigenous values are equally pressing and urgent challenges, as they provide new opportunities in rural regions. In Jinyun County, the adaptive reuse of a group of adjacent quarries will provide a model for the other 3000 abandoned quarries in the region, which are now considered a valuable local resource for cultural and social activities and ecological improvements, while offering a new economic potential for the rural population.
The project based on three quarries. The brief for the first one was based on a request from the local quarry workers and community to showcase quarrying as a local production technique and historic heritage. Then the adjacent quarry was redesigned as a new theatre thanks to its acoustic qualities, while also providing a new community space that represents quarrying as a local collective memory.
The third quarry is a combination of a modern public library and a traditional Chinese study, devoted to the local art of calligraphy. This space extends about 50 m into the mountain and reaches a height of nearly 40 m. Its size and functional purpose qualify it as the most important intervention to date. By reusing abandoned quarries as new public facilities, the project reduces the number of new buildings and their environmental impact. The abandoned quarries are transformed into spaces dedicated to culture that offer the local communities new prospects, both ecologically and economically, and bring a part of their collective memory back to life.