Yangshuo County has a history going back 1,400 years and is located in the south-east of Guilin city near the West Bank of the Lijiang River. ‘Guilin scenery is the finest under heaven, and Yangshuo is the closest place to Guilin’ is an ancient folk saying summarising the unparalleled natural scenery of Yangshuo.
Along with the recent rapid development of the local tourism industry, some of the local modern developments cannot meet requirements, so the county government decided to plan and develop three sites to enhance the overall attractiveness for tourism. It can be a hard task to design three major new buildings in such a traditional environment surrounded by the beautiful natural landscape which is also highly protected regardless as to who is driving the development.
And achieving an integrated or, at the very least, a coherent co-existence between the traditional and the contemporary while incorporating local cultural characteristics creates a significant challenge.
Site A/Cultural Area
Site A is where the two main roads and terminals for the county are and is located in the Northeast corner of Yangshuo County near the east of the Lijiang River and the pier, and is surrounded by the northern peaks.
Owner’s requirement: That the site fully reflects the architectural style of the local characteristics including the materials such as the blue bricks, the locally produced flagstones, wooden doors, and windows. The structures to correspond with all aspects of the traditional characteristics of the environment.
Tourists can reach the north pier of this site after a few hours up the river by boat from Guilin. Around 1.5 million visitors per year arrive on the north side of the crossing terminal, so the site acts as a doorway County. However commercial facilities alone cannot utilise the full potential so this site is to be a multi-functional space catering mainly for the tourists.
This space is not only for introducing the culture and history to visitors but would also be used for talks and presentations. When tourists first arrive at the northeast corner they will see the cone-shaped, large-scale information space/museum whose shape replicates the famous ‘karst’ mountains for which Yangshuo is famed.
In order to protect the Bingjiang Road locality, the design approach has been one of simple construction with the building being decorated with simple materials to match and echo the line of the historic buildings.
The street facade has decentralised entrances and exits allowing people to freely enter and leave the new space. To the west side are parking spaces well away from the main historic street.
The flow lines of constructions were driven by the traditional Chinese-style layout: classified as ‘surrounding’ and ‘straight-through’ to satisfy all those exploring on foot.
Site B/Residential Area
Site B is located in the centre of Yangshuo County and is mostly surrounded by 3-layer government offices. The south side is close to the main street while the north side is less restricted and provides places for people to gather.
Because of the traffic flow and local characteristics the design combines the functionality of commercial shops and living space together and utilises the characteristics of the local natural materials as the basis for the construction of the main structure.
There is the beautiful and natural mountain scenery to the north of block. Here the new hall is to be built on the north side creating a north-south flow whilst retaining the historic alley culture which continues to provide an excellent environment for traditional small stores and stalls.
Through the space between the five towers, the view of the mountains remains and the build imitates the convex form of the natural terrain and the ‘karsts’. Built into the design is the incorporation of the existing firewall. This enhances the relationship between the new and the old. The materials are local blue bricks, white walls, wood and local Yangshuo stone.
Site C/Commercial Areas
Walking along Pinnacle Road (the ‘main’ road) are numerous hotels, shops, restaurants on both sides. This commercial block is located on the South Pinnacle Road from where people will be able to see the Lijiang River and many buildings on both sides arranged to form a uniform landscape.
Because of the high density of buildings, it is difficult to find an open space for leisure even though the Lijiang River has a slender border park.
The new Town Centre is located in this area and is to occupy 14,200㎡ with huge consideration being given to both the landscape and the street itself providing the space based on the new larger structure as opposed to the existing small buildings.
So from the intensive buildings in Pinnacle Road down to the new commercial block, the area has become more open (and fashionable) instead of a crowded landscape. This open space contains a 5m wide tributary of the Lijiang River which streams across the road surface.
The large-scale roof slope gradually increases to the south and the landscape itself is as from the river to the peak; a man-made landscape for the arts of the earth.