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Monday, November 17, 2008

China Academy of Art Xiangshan Campus

China Academy of Art Xiangshan Campus in Hangzhou, China by Amateur Architecture Studio

Photographs are by o d b / David Brown.

About 80 years after its founding the China Academy of Art opened its third campus in Zhuantang Town, Xihu District of Hangzhou. The Xiangshan Campus is comprised of four schools (School of Design, School of Architecture, Public Art Institute, Media and Animation Institute) spread across 21 buildings. The campus wraps itself around the base of a forested hill, with Phase 1 to the north and Phase 2 to the south. Designed by Amateur Architecture Studio, the buildings and landscaping are a skillful yet varied composition that reflects the architect's respect of site and tradition.

Phase 1 (first three images) consists of four classroom buildings and various smaller buildings, including studios, workshops, a library, a tower, and an athletic field. The classroom buildings are the most distinctive; U-shape in plan, the interior facades are marked by wood shutters, while the exterior facades utilize sloping louvers topped by gray tile. It's a design that recalls traditional courtyard houses and other buildings in China, from the form down to the materials. The wood shutters and concrete frame, particularly, give the design a contemporary air that is rooted in regional traditions.

Phase 2 is a more varied bunch of buildings. Here we find the same wood shutters as Phase 1, but the building's form is more gestural, with swooping roofs that have been described as calligraphy-like. In this and other buildings the reliance on concrete is apparent, as boxes are stacked asymmetrically and "punch-card" openings enliven otherwise flat facades. More references to Phase 1 include courtyard buildings, whose snaking plans are reinforced by snaking ramps attached to their facades, and gray-tile louvers, the last material even interspersed in gray-brick walls.

Of course the varied yet harmonious relationship of the numerous buildings of different form and material is aided by the landscape. But this is not a simple matter of path and tree placement, the further definition of outdoor rooms and circulation, but the fact that "much of the land around the buildings has been given over to agricultural use for local farmers" [quote]. This link with the traditional means of life in the area may be stronger than the perpetuation of architectural forms and construction. For students it should a constant reminder of how context is social as well as physical.

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