Gehua Youth and Cultural Center
Surrounded by woods and away from the urban chaos nearby, this building was designed to be fully immersed in nature. A rich mix of programs is accommodated in this small building of less than 3,000 square meters.
The design is a thoughtful response to the client’s desire for spaces that can accommodate the ever-changing programs of the camp, with an open and free spirit rare in conventional teaching facilities. The roof is flat, to be used for landscaping and outdoor activities; the indoor ground follows the rise of the topography and is set at several different heights, which subtly divide the free flowing spaces into different zones, all facing the sloped central courtyard with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. A brick-paved path zigzags its way through the grassy courtyard, connecting all different heights and providing both an accessible route and an interesting landscape element.
At the lower end of the courtyard, the building façade is composed of a giant pair of bamboo-plywood-faced folding doors with scattered slot openings that become denser as they get closer to the ground. The openings were inspired by the “eyes” on the trunks of the local poplar trees. Behind it, across a corridor, is another pair of folding doors of the same size but faced with off-white fabric that can serve as projection screens. When both sets of folding doors are open, the small theater behind them is entirely open to the central courtyard. All of a sudden the courtyard becomes part of the theater, and the theatrical event enters into the courtyard. This space can sustain a totally different kind of theatrical experience, one novel and unexpected. On summer nights the courtyard is often used as an outdoor cinema, with movies projected onto the surface of the inner folding doors.
The center provides a place for children to explore and discover in sunshine and nature, like a micro-society. It also acts as a cultural hub open year-round to the local residents, hosting various performances and cultural activities.