A World in a “Wall”
Sitting in the west suburb of Kunshan, a booming industrial city, the Lake Yangcheng Park is the largest public green space on the lake’s shore, attracting the city’s residents during the weekends. The linear site lies between the main public parking lot and a curved boardwalk which directs people to the waterfront and other attractions.
By its nature, a visitor center is the front door of a place. But a door presumes the existence of a wall. Considering the linear shape of the site, I feel that it is appropriate to make the building a “wall.” Indeed, people getting out of their cars will see a curved “wall,” 99 meters long and 7.75 meters high, along the entire north side of the parking lot, Three doorways of varied sizes are punched out from this “wall,” freeing passages that direct towards the Park. Being accentuated by the surrounding “wall,” the views captured by the openings appear particularly enticing, but one will soon find out that this is not a simple solid wall. A layer of wood trellises runs parallel to an inner concrete wall. The trellises and future climbing plants make the “wall” appear light and ever-changing. At the west end, the trellis layer deviates from the concrete wall and forms a unique gesture, nodding to the nearby lake shore which is invisible from the parking lot.
The big surprise comes when people enter the doorways. Looking east and west, they will find that the “wall” contains complex spaces between its two concrete exterior shells. Because few solid crossing partitions exist in the building, one can see various spaces, bright and dim, indoor and outdoor, high and low, orthogonal and diagonal, juxtaposed along the longitudinal direction of the cavity. For example, the sunken court under the ramp recalls a shadowy valley studded with trees.
The first floor provides an exhibition space for tourist orientation and several retail shops. A ramp leads visitors to a roof court which connects to a café and another shop. The café has its own roof deck that enjoys the best view of the Lake. The pairing of indoor and outdoor spaces to serve a function is one of the fundamental characteristics of Chinese traditional space.
Visitors transiting this “wall” will find a quiet wooden deck connecting the back of the building and the existing boardwalk. Under the shades of dense trees, arriving and leaving tourists can get beers from the nearby shop and enjoy them here.