National Sinology Center
By the end of 2010, our team at RTKL entered the competition for the National Sinology Center. Under the direction of LXG, my long-time mentor and the lead designer, I worked as the team captain, leading the team to pump out ideas, organizing day to day design critiques, and directing the final production phase. It was three exciting and productive months. The days approaching the submission were filled with exhausting work, all-nighters, and drama. Our final stretch to the officially designated submission location was delayed by the motorcade of the Chinese president, who was on his way to the airport for a state visit to the USA. Our submission was two minutes late, and consequently disqualified.
Nevertheless, I believe we have had a very convincing design at the end. The complex program, a 62,000 sqm mixture of exhibition, training, research, and office spaces, is answered by a spiraling promenade that brings the visitors from the ground level to the roof garden, showcasing the exhibits along the way. The auditorium and training rooms are placed underground, with light brought in through sunken garden. The research center, the apex of the program, is enthroned at the top, overlooking the roof garden.
The spatial concept is embodied in the shape of an “ink block” atop a “bowl”. Being the traditional Chinese notion of collecting wealth, the bowl brings cultural symbolism while freeing up the ground for public plaza. From the ink block and roof-top garden, the splendid view of the Bird’s Nest and the rest of the Olympic Park will be enjoyed by the cultural elite as well as the general public. The formal contrast between the ink block and the bowl echoes the tension of an increasingly stratified Chinese society, where the elites, established by their political and economic prowess, are accustomed to look down upon the masses, while the masses feel increasing resentment toward the ruling class. Is there an opportunity to break up the bipolarity and fill-in the gap between the two classes? We tried throughout the process, but found doing so, although will answer better to our conscience, will nevertheless contradict the program requirement set by the authority. What an irony!