Western or Eastern? DongZhuang-Building Museum of Western Regions, is located in Tuoli Township of Nanshan Grasslands, 30 km away from Urumqi City, and is built on the site of a previous grain shop that existed more than sixty years ago. Since the ancient times, architectural design which is inspired by natural landscape has always been exciting. The Museum, facing the city in the south and backed by the mountain in the north, has no disturbance on surrounding vegetation. From afar, it looks like an off-white stone rolled down from the mountain, standing quietly and naturally in the open and vast Gobi desert of Inner Eurasia. Part of the Museum was designed as a guest house containing a private art gallery and the other is open to the public where passengers could have some rest. Cement, sand, necessary rebar and least glass are all components of the building for ecology protection and resource conservation. The thick walls and small windows shield against the scorching sun in summer and chillness in winter.
The principles and methods of traditional technologies for cavity walls, ramming earth, sun-dried mud bricks and laying stones are adopted to construct a simple, reliable and durable building. The texture of materials is highlighted on the building’s surface to obtain a “natural” completeness of a non-specific space. The design respecting the data framework and ecological cycle reflects the diversity, liberty and obscureness of local life and endows the building with liberty, freeness and vitality. DongZhuang is a “transparent” presence, with no clear internal floors, possibilities of uncertain and multiple applications, and UDLR interconnection. It takes advantage of natural presences in a smart way to protect against wind and snow and realize ventilation and day lighting. The perfect concave-convex matching with the outer space and the existing space chiseled and space “created” as required for the workers’ needs makes a building under the concept of “harmony” and “container”.
1. The building shall be durable and firm enough to resist violent storm, sand storm, and ultraviolet ray.
2. Buildings are not built to show off the wealth and test technologies, especially in poor areas, and local materials and applicable folk building technologies will be used for the building.
3. Good-looking is not beauty, and even beauty often lasts for a short while with the shift of aesthetic trends. A pleasant and well-adapted building with multiple functions is a good building, and durability is a synonym of history, symbol and localism.
4. It is preferable for a house in the desert hinterland to emerge in harmony with the nature and perish of itself as time goes by.
5. The natural light is over artificial light as the latter is dependent on too much input and the sun and the moon are really splendid and reliable.
6. The internal and external space of the building is homogeneous, and flow and stagnancy is reciprocal causation as the space exists of itself.
The texture of wall brick and floor ceramic tile is completed under the efforts of the designers and 23 local Artux constructors. For memory and respect, the designers stroked and engraved the latter’s names on the “five stars” red brick. North: the wall body is intensified to resist strong wind. East: an opening is provided for enjoying the blue sky and white cloud among the existence of beautiful small river, temples and mountains. South: owing to the sceneries of green hills and trees, and the smoke from kitchen chimneys rising from the pasture families, together with the bright sunshine and gentle and pleasant breeze, it is a good idea to drink milk tea in the garth, basking in the sunshine, beside the screen work of the vertical ladder. West: one can enjoy the warm picture made of the setting sun shining through the fruit trees, the stream flowing quietly, and homebound people.
One can open the skylight of the roof to let in the light of stars and moon, observe the universe, while listening to the twittering of swallows. Previously there were many bird’s nests on the northwest corner, the designers planted flowers and plants on the space between stairs and water tank to build “Bird’s Nest” open to the south for returning swallows. Before construction, scores of apple trees, elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian Olive) and elm in the yard of the old grain shop were moved to the southeastern corner of the square of the village primary school, and then restored after the main structure was completed.
The theory of uncertain design is obtained from the experience of the architectural design in the Western Regions for decades, which not only requires craftsmanship, and but also should incorporate the awareness from the depth of one’s soul, and quality of respecting natural space. According to the uncertain design theory, a building is compared to a potato, and the seed of the potato is cut into irregular pieces, which are buried in the ground, so no one knows how large they would grow and what they would look like. But they will grow up and be themselves for sure. The potato has its own image and natural skin after self-enrichment, due to the demand of inner growth and external oppression and bondage from soil.
The uncertain theory tries to give the space a “space”, which is full of air, sunshine, airflow, moisture, heat and coolness, snow and rain and countless causes and effects relevant to stretching. Then their existence leads to the topic about life and reproduction. Reliability, continuity, non-utilitarianism, view of nature, open view of environment, free and versatile use of the space, the simplicity of materials, crafts and cost, and the expression of the most primitive, substantial and simple “blank” are all the essential thought and action principles of the design of DongZhuang-Building Museum. The place is mostly called “Western Region” in China, and “The East” by the European, so it is hard to define whether it is a building of the east or of the west.
Designed by: Xinjiang Wind Architectural Design & Research Institute Co.,Ltd.
Design Team: Liu Xu, Zhang Haiyang, Liu Erdong, Zhang Zhong, Zhang Qing, Zhang Jian
Photographer: Yao Li