Fanhao Meng "Rural Nostalgia and Urban Dream"- the Biennale Architettura 2021 at Arsenale
2021 / 10 / 29

In the 17th International Architecture Exhibition organized by La Biennale di Venezia, Fanhao Meng, Co-Founder and Chief Architect of line+, participated in the "How will we live together?" theme exhibition held in Arsenale, as invited by Hashim Sarkis, the dean of MIT School of Architecture and Planning. The theme of the exhibition is to establish a new "space contract", which calls on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together in the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities.

△ Arsenale

"Rural Nostalgia and Urban Dream" is the reflection of exhibitor Fanhao Meng on the realistic scene and development picture of contemporary China's vision, as well as his observation of the exhibition theme "live together" during practice - we are healing the "rural nostalgia" for urban people and fulfilling the "urban dream" for rural people.

The exhibition includes three practical works—Dongziguan Rural Revival Project, Stray Bird Art Hotel · Songyang Chenjiapu and Teahouse in Jiuxing Village, which interpret and respond to the proposition of "How will different groups live together" from three aspects: construction of new-type community, reuse of existing buildings, and creation of public space.


How will we live together?

As architects, we have been walking in different geographical environments of cities and villages, and at the same time carry out construction practice of different scales and types for urban and rural people. During such practice, we find that the urban-rural relationship in China is like a “fortress besieged”- urban people are tired of the density and vertical development of urban areas, and “returning to the countryside” has become a medicine to soothe their minds; while rural people are curious about the lifestyle, consumption and culture of the city, and "going to the city" has become a trend. The spatial production drawn forth by demands dislocation of the two groups has become an important carrier of functions of urban and rural areas, and can to a certain extent transform the one-way flow into a two-way integration of urban and rural areas.

The three cases, namely Dongziguan Rural Revival Project, Stray Bird Art Hotel· Songyang Chenjiapu and Teahouse in Jiuxing Village, are the intersection of "rural nostalgia" and "urban dream", which show the urban-rural relationship in contemporary China with different spatial forms, architectural functions and construction strategies, and are also explorations of new urban-rural mixture models caused by architectural space production.

△ Floor plan

△ Elevation

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic makes it impossible for us to visit the exhibition site, which poses a great challenge to both model making and on-site exhibition arrangement. For this reason, the design aims to make the exhibition arrangement as simple as possible, and a guaranteed scheme is put forward to ensure the enforceability of long-distance transportation and long-distance exhibition arrangement and removal.

The exhibition is held in Arsenale in Venice. In the unobstructed exhibition space covering more than 100 square meters, architectural miniatures, digital videos and graphic images are used to vividly reproduce the contemporary urban and rural life image in China in the mottled European historical building.


Construction of new-type community

Dongziguan Rural Revival Project in Fuyang, Hangzhou

Architectural design:gad

| Organize the exhibition in a real way

The 1:30 miniature model completely reproduces the architectural form of 46 residential units. The plan layout reflects the texture of the village. The bottom slab of the model support column, which projects the cluster of units, intuitively expresses the diversity of cluster forms and presents an organic general map of the village. We choose 8 typical households and the villager activity center, and present their sections to truly reproduce the space use and life scenes inside them.

△ Generation diagram

As for the spacing of the individual model, we find an appropriate scale ratio between streets of the real village and aisles in the exhibition. Visitors can freely walk into the aisle, which is also the street in the village, truly feel the scale from the perspective of people, and experience the daily life of villagers, thus forming an interactive relationship between street space, local life and the experience of the exhibition.

The continuous and asymmetrical sloped roof is another key point of Dongziguan dwellings, which is extracted, analyzed, and abstracted from the curved roof of dwellings in Jiangnan region (regions south of the Yangtze River). In the exhibition model, we extract the roof separately and suspend it in mid-air to provide multi-angle observation perspectives, which also greatly enriches the vertical spatial hierarchy in the exhibition hall.

△ Axial diagram

At the starting of the exhibition circulation, we show the whole life stage of Dongziguan Village from five aspects: project background, design expression, real scene presentation, social influence, and documentary of Dongziguan construction.

Dongziguan Villager’s Activity Center

The villager’s activity center is a public activity place for all villagers. The vertically decomposed scene model truly shows the fluid space system, localized material language and spontaneous usage scenes of the activity center. Unlike most villager’s activity centers that have lost their vitality due to long-term closure, Dongziguan Villager’s Activity Center aimed to construct "a small world under the big roof" by using a continuous undulating steel roof and multiple small-scale unit boxes.

The open space system meets the needs for different functions in different life scenes, such as gatherings, watching plays, square dances, painting and calligraphy exhibitions, chess and card games. This inclusive space form can meet the needs of different groups of people who live together, and build the "village vitality source" with architecture as a medium.

| Cluster form of urban-rural integration

In the past three years, Dongziguan Village has unexpectedly attracted a flow of people through media communication, thereby stimulating the generation of new businesses and industries, and promoting the return of indigenous people and the influx of new groups including artists and young entrepreneurs. A new rural community is formed there, which is a kind of cluster that transcends cities and villages.

Therefore, we select 8 typical families - Guqin (Chinese zither) family, vegetable planting family, mud stove family, Qichi B&B, house of principal, calligraphy family, plant family, and teahouse family, which represent different living conditions and cluster modes in this new type of community.

A03 - Guqin Family

A traditional craftsman from Shanxi, supported by the local government, rents a house in the village and makes Guqin here to spread traditional culture.

A06 - Vegetable Planting Family

Two old persons plant vegetables in their garden and live a simple rural life.

A22 - Mud Stove Family

The family has five members and is a typical peasant family. They do farm work in the yard and cook with a traditional mud stove, maintaining the previous living habits.

A20 - Qichi B&B

The middle-aged couple renovate their home as "Qichi B&B" and manage it themselves. B&B is a new form of business in the village and a new form of self-management for local people to generate income.

A32 - House of Principal

The 60-year-old retired principal and his six family members live here. The interior decoration and layout follow the traditional Chinese style.

A26 - Calligraphy Family

An artist from the city converts this residential house into a space with multiple functions. The first floor is used for calligraphy and painting exhibitions, with famous painters often holding exhibitions here. The second and third floors are used as B&B.

A53 - Plant Family

A family of three live here. The yard is full of plants, and the interior decoration follow the style of an exquisite urban model house.

A57 - Teahouse Family

The hipster couple move out of the city and live in Dongziguan, where they change their residence into a teahouse to provide tourists with a place to enjoy a tea break.


Reuse of existing buildings

Stray Bird Art Hotel · Songyang Chenjiapu

Architectural design:line+ & gad

Stray Bird Art Hotel · Songyang Chenjiapu is a resort B&B converted from two traditional houses. The traditional rammed earth walls represent the juxtaposed new and old structures and alternate urban and rural lifestyles. For this reason, we choose a model that dismantles the building structure vertically to display the usage scenes horizontally in the exhibition.

Based on the in-depth study of the local construction system of Songyang residential settlement, we repair rammed earth walls with traditional manual techniques, update door and window systems, and provide better building physical properties. The interior of the building is a light skeleton built by light steel structures. In order to adapt to the special construction environment in rural areas, structural members and indoor partition walls are prefabricated in the factory and assembled on site. Moreover, new usage functions and space quality of rural architecture are implanted under the guidance of contemporary lifestyle.

The rammed earth buildings juxtaposed with the new and old structures not only heal the "rural nostalgia" of urban people, but also provide the material basis for the development of "urban dream" for rural people. More importantly, through the scientific reuse of existing buildings, the traditional villages in which such buildings are located are protected as well as are developing.


Creation of public space

Teahouse in Jiuxing Village

Architectural design:gad & line+

As its name implies, Teahouse in Jiuxing Village is to create a pleasant place for tea tasting in a watery fishing village with mountains, waters, and misty rain.

Maximizing the landscape interface and integrating the building volume into the environment are the two basic ideas of architectural design. Therefore, in the exhibition design, we split the project model longitudinally to clearly show the dissolution relationship between the building and the environment, and the organization of the building itself. The complete bird's-eye view model is embedded in the lower left corner of the building, showing the occlusal relationship between the architectural form and the mountain from another dimension. The rough concrete texture of the model also reproduces the special material of wooden formwork concrete used in the construction of this project.

Compared with the traditional sloped roofs, scattered layouts, rural materials, wooden craftsmanship and other techniques used in common rural buildings, Teahouse in Jiuxing Village presents another possibility of public space construction in the typical rural landscape environment in Jiangnan region through the adjustment to terrain, the disintegration of building volume and the rethinking of materials.


Thoughts on "Rural Nostalgia" and "Urban Dream"

From the perspective of population flow and spatial agglomeration, in the process of urban-rural interaction and integrated development, urbanization cannot be separated from the inflow of rural people, and rural construction cannot be separated from urban people's yearning for the countryside. "Rural nostalgia" and "Urban Dream" are not only spatial appeals and symbolic visions, but also group representations of the linkage of urban-rural relations, and are also the core drive for the reconstruction of urban-rural relations. Under the interaction between the needs of the crowd and the architectural design, a multi-functional and multi-group gathering place is formed. How to deal with the new demands of the mixed group for shared space and cultural space has become our continuous concerns about the new mode of crowd cluster in urban and rural areas in space production.

On the other hand, compared with city, rural area is a more complex ecological system, with common problems such as imperfect organizational structure. At this time, the identity of the architect is no longer a passive, single, one-way problem solver, but an active, composite and multi-directional organization leader, thus completing the design-driven space authorization-not only the architectural design, but combined with specific social context and policies, integrate multiple resources, build a set of project operation procedures from planning and design to construction and operation, so as to innovate a paradigm that promotes development by architecture design. This is also our thinking and action in response to the theme of "How will we live together".

Project   Rural Nostalgia | Urban Dream 

Exhibition   Theme exhibition of「How will we live together? in the 17th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice

Project Location   Arsenale, Venice, Italy

Design Time   2019.09-2021.04

Exhibition Area   106 ㎡

Exhibitor / Lead Designer   Fanhao Meng

Design Principal   Yaliang He, Hao Xu

Design Team   Jun Zhu, Hao Deng, Zhenliang Ge, Yubin Wang, Shu Xing, Xinyu Wang, Dan Tu, Yinze Li

Project Executive   Yi Fang, Yaliang He

Documentary   ZuoJing Studio, Xi Chen, Stray Bird Art Hotel

Video   Xinhui Liu, Yufan Chen, Fancheng Shi, Sitao Fang

Miniature Model Making   Fancheng Shi, Shiyuan Lou, Sitao Fang, Yang Sun, Yuhui Xue, Shudi Sun, Yufan Chen, Sixu Tao, Siyan Tao, Yimin Liu

Building Model Making   Hangzhou Tianhan Architectural Modeling Design Co., Ltd.

On-site Executive   Xiao Yang

Photography   Xuanzhu Liu, Xi Chen, Global Knowledge Lei Feng, Xiao Yang

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