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Interval Architects: Located in the south of Hengshui City of Hebei Province, Hengshui Lake is the only wetland ecosystem in the Northern China that contains marshes, water, mudflats, meadows and forests. Fuyang River, which originates at the eastern foot of the Taihang Mountains, runs through the lake. From mid-October to early November, flocks of geese, spoonbills and gulls arrive at Hengshui Lake before migrating south to spend the winter. The local government intends to build a botanical garden on a natural wetland adjacent to Hengshui Lake to promote ecotourism and provide a place for botanic study and public education. From 2019-2021, Interval Architects completed a series of buildings including an exhibition greenhouse, a museum for aquatic plants, a botanic art center and a botanic research center.
The Exhibition Greenhouse is the most important and representative architecture among all the buildings in the botanic garden. It is by the central lake and opposite to the Botanic Art Center. With a size of approximately 3,000sqm., the design breaks away from the conventional spherical form which are typically seen among greenhouse buildings. With limited budget and tight time schedule, the design intends to create a contemporary and public garden through standardized steel structure and curtain wall system.
公共性和标志性Publicness and Icon
The Hengshui Botanical Garden is located in the south of the city and approximately 15 minutes away from downtown. It will be open to the public as a country park and public cultural platform. The design of the botanical garden shall make full use of its rich natural resources and create a visual and functional appeal in order to provide a comprehensive botanical experience for visitors.
▽公园里的展览馆 The exhibition hall in the park
The strong public and iconic nature of the Hengshui Botanical Garden poses a challenge to the architectural form. As the main building of the garden, the exhibition greenhouse faces the ever-looming opening date and public expectations, thus creating an even more complex question: what position and attitude should the architecture takes to meet the constraints of schedule, budget and public expectations of being iconic? It is common in modern greenhouse architecture to build gigantic spherical structures that emphasize form and monumentality or to construct a costly structure with a blobby shape. We intend to avoid designing the exhibition greenhouse from these “prototypical” common approaches for two reasons. Firstly, the dome or non-linear spherical roof structure will take up a larger area and volume, thus creating an ‘imbalance’ between the supposedly small-scale-building and the surrounding wetland landscape. Secondly, the non-linear formal structure will generate higher and stricter requirements on the use of materials, structure and construction, and therefore generate more ecological sacrifices which is against the original intention of the design – a building that intervenes minimally with the environment and makes plants the main protagonists.
▽在自然中生长的展馆 A pavilion that grows in nature
The starting point of the design originates from a response to climatic conditions and site adaptation, rather than intending to create an eye-catchy form for the form’s sake. The entire building is composed of several modular structures that repeat itself to fit the site. The inverted tapered steel frame structure with concrete column bases and wrapped in a glass curtain wall stands on a red brick base which echoes the nearby botanic art center, which is also named the Tower of Bricks.
▽概念演变 concept evolution
The vertebral steel frame repeats itself and transformed into a folded continuous roofscape that floats above the wetland. The strong geometric forms and volumes of the orthogonal grid and steel frame create a formal tension with the light and natural form of the wetland. Together with the rich plantation under the glass roof, the exhibition greenhouse intends to become a distinctive visual identity for the botanic garden with plants as the focus of the architecture.
▽连续的三角钢构屋顶 Continuous triangular steel roof
双重尺度 A Two-Scale Dimension System
The most important “users” of the greenhouse are the plants that ‘inhabit’ it. The exhibition greenhouse contains a tropical plant zone and a psammophyte zone. The psammophytes are lower and are arranged in a separate area on the southern part of the building in order to meet the specific requirements on area, temperature, humidity and soil. The pyramidal shape of the structure offers a unique way of planting in respond to the wide variation in the height of the tropical plants. Tall trees are placed in the center of the pyramidal structure and low seasonal flowers and bushes are planted on four sides of the structure which has a lower and descending height.
For the other group of greenhouse users – visitors and the managing staff, the spatial experience and constant change of views become the main design considerations. Two kinds of scale-systems were designed in order to coherently manipulate the inter-relationships between structure, plantations and the human behavior. The 18m-high main steel structure offers a scale that accommodates the plantations while the 3-to-4m-high wooden boxes together with the low masonry walls and concrete columns offers a system more relative to the human scale. The space-boxes are placed on the periphery of the building and allows the two-scale systems to intersect with each other and create a transitional buffer space between the interior and exterior spaces. The space-boxes are cladded with wood panels and perform as a carrier for secondary and service functions such as souvenir shops, management offices, washrooms and storages.
Opposed to the conventional way of placing all ancillary functions in one place, the scattered space-boxes create a more organic and coherent relationship with the entire structure and offer more possibilities in terms of spatial experience and viewing plants. The low red masonry walls wrap around the entire interior boundary of the building and hides the mechanical piping system and equipment. It blends visually well with the red brick bases on the facade and effectively generate a visual barrier that separates the interior and the exterior spaces of the architecture, particularly on the space below eye level.
▽红砖矮墙与红砖基座融为一体 The red brick low wall blends in with the red brick base
The main entrance of the exhibition greenhouse is on the northeastern part of the building and faces the main pedestrian path of the park. The entrance is formed by a pyramidal steel structure unit without glass claddings. The pure skeleton structure offers a buffer space that provide adequate shading and allows visitors to take a rest and wait for the sunset scenery of the botanic garden. In addition to the main entrance, the building has three secondary entrances: two on the west side with paths leading to the lake and another one on the south side which connects with main pathway of the garden.
▽展馆入口 The pavilion entrance
The main viewing route in the exhibition greenhouse is formed by the stone-paved path that meanders between the plantations. The setting of the main viewing path forms a unique relationship between visitors and plants and offer constant-changing visual experience between the plants and the architecture. The wooden space-boxes that scatter around the plantations offer a secondary space for experiencing and interacting with the plantations. Visitors may go through them or go above it and use it as a public platform that offers a three-dimensional viewing experience.
▽条石拼接的观赏园路 Stone splicing ornamental garden road
The materiality of the architecture forms a coherent system with the human behaviors. The red masonry walls and stone pavements provide circulation paths while the wooden seats and boxes create spaces for visitors to rest. The layering and permeation of views connect the inner sceneries of the plantation landscape and make the action of viewing itself becomes part of the exhibition.
理性的结构体系A Rational Structural System
Since the construction of the “Crystal Palace” at the 1851 World’s Fair, glass and steel was often used as the main materials to construct exhibition halls and they have become the “typical” impression of exhibition greenhouses. The prefabricated construction method has proved its advantages in terms of economy, speed and convenience. Construction schedule and difficulty were effectively reduced the prefabricated assembled components. In the Hengshui Botanical Garden exhibition greenhouse, the repeating pyramidal steel structures use the same moulds and parameters. Standardized construction methods enhance construction efficiency and effectively reduces the cost of construction. In addition, as snow often falls heavily in Hebei’s winter, the steep sloping roof of the pyramidal structure ensures a sufficient angle for snow to slide off and effectively resolves the building’s drainage problems. The water pipe at the junction of the pyramidal structure allows the melting snow water to be collected and drained away.
▽结构分析图 structure diagram
▽屋顶结构 Roof structure
The structural elements are abstract and pure geometries without complex ornamentations. The repeated pyramidal structure forms a column-free interior spaces with minimal vertical interferences. Thirteen trapezoidal concrete column bases sit on top of the red masonry plinths and perform as footings that support the pyramidal roof-frame structural unit. The architecture takes a form that visualizes the force-transmitting logic of the building’s structure.
▽底部的水泥基座支撑倒锥形的几何体 A cement base at the bottom supports the inverted taper geometry
The large glass curtain wall system covering the entire building allows for maximum natural light. The transparency of the glass itself blurs the spatial boundaries between interior and exterior and thus reveal a sense of lightness and permeability. Shading blinds and auxiliary lighting equipment are integrated into the curtain wall system to regulate the light environment of the greenhouse in order to meet the high requirements for light hours and angles for desert and tropical plants. Mechanical systems such as indoor lighting, environmental control systems and other supplementary equipment and piping are arranged along and concealed themselves the roof structure beams and trusses. We attempt to put together coherently the building’s spatial, cultural, aesthetic, and eco-technical elements while meeting the cost constraints.
▽玻璃幕顶 Glass curtain against
▽热带植物可以从玻璃幕墙吸收阳光 Tropical plants absorb sunlight from the glass curtain wall
为谁而建：介入与分离的思辨Built For Whom: The Reflections on Intervention and Separation
Beginning from the ancient Roman greenhouses, greenhouse architecture has undergone evolutions from the European wood-stone greenhouses to the iron and glass garden greenhouses built after the industrial revolution of the 19th century. In modern times, greenhouses have been given more social dimensions which include education, research, and guiding people to pay attention and take care of the Earth’s valuable natural resources.
With the opening of the Hengshui botanic garden, it is hard to imagine that the place has suffered greatly from the industrial developments. Only a few years ago, Hengshui city was among the country’s bottom ten in terms of pollution levels. Technological developments have made people forget the humble gesture mankind should have in front of nature. Constructions that abused our natural resources often lead to the sacrifice of the planet’s ecology. The contradiction between the rapid urbanization of modern society and the protection of natural resources of the earth’s ecological system continues to prompt us to reflect on the ecological significance of architecture.
建筑与自然的关系，引发出对于 “为谁而建” 的思辨：在这个项目中，植物并非建筑的他者，也不应为配景一般的点缀。我们希望，人与植物之间的可以呈现互文的关系，而建筑所处的位置更近似“介入”（In-Between）而非“分离”（Division）。激发人们去观察、去体验，进而感受到与自然的紧密关联，是建造的应有之义。
The relationship between architecture and nature leads to the question of “For whom are we building?” In this project, plants are not an alternative to architecture, nor should they be a colorful addition to the architecture. We hope that there will be an interconnected relationship between people and plants and that architecture will perform as a role of “in-between” than “division”. To inspire people to observe and experience a closer connection with nature is what architecture attempts to achieve.
▽一层平面 Plan – level 1
▽屋顶平面 Roof plan
▽剖面细节 Detail sections
▽展馆模型 Model pictures
Project Name: Hengshui Botanical Garden Greenhouse Exhibition Hall
Completed Year: 2021
Project area: 3,113 square meters
Project location: Hengshui
Design Firm: Interval Architects
Company website: www.interval-architects.com
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief designer: Gao Yitao, Gu Yun
Design team: Gao Yitao, Gu Yun, Yue Zexing, Hu Xianmei, Chen Jing, Huang Jin, Luo Xun, Liao Chenyang, Fu Yu, Zhang Yu, Fang Hanqi
Guest: Hengshui Botanical Garden
Photographer: ZHI Geng
审稿编辑 Ashley Jen
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