The MANSHANJU cultural center is located in the mountainous area of Beijing’s northern suburbs. Nearby, the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty looms on the top of the mountains. There are many temple ruins scattered among these mountains. Some of the ruins even date back to the Tang Dynasty. The founder of MANSHANJU cultural center is Wu Na, a renowned contemporary Chinese guqin player and guqin educator. The guqin is a Chinese zither that has existed for over 3000 years, its music has been inscribed on the intangible heritage of humanity. Wu Na guqin courses are widely respected for their integration of Buddhist practices.
In order to build a quiet retreat away from the city, the project is located in a scenic mountain area where the temples have disappeared into history, but which has nurtured a stable and peaceful aura, perfect for the MANSHANJU project. The cultural center is built in the highest part of a village on a hillside. The designer’s thought process was to create a place that corresponds to the idea of Chan (Zen), an aura of inward convergence. When you are there, you will forget the noise of the mundane world for a moment and can relax and sit down to play the guqin, read or meditate.
The building is built around a Zen-like courtyard. This courtyard pavement is made of old roof tiles that were discarded in the surrounding villages that are carefully assembled to create water ripples. Each water ripple pattern has a small hole in the center. The secret is buried underneath this hole. Whenever it rains and water accumulates, these small holes play the role of drainage, but at the same time it will emit a pleasant sound. This is because there is a large clay pot underneath so water splashing sounds in the pot will resonate. When choosing different sizes of clay pots connected to their respective drainage holes, it will produce high and low harmonious effect like music. In Japanese garden design, this ingenuous facility is called a “water piano cave”. The rainy days should be a special treat for visitors to experience the music of nature in the garden.
When the weather is warm, the glass doors on both sides are open and the courtyard blends in with the indoor environment. The view from the courtyard can be seen from different indoor spaces. At dusk, the courtyard is a wonderful stage for a guqin performance with elaborate lighting. The audience sits around the courtyard under the corridor to listen to the concert, as if the whole world is silent and the only time that matters is when you are immersed in the music.
The largest room on the right-side of the courtyard is the multi-purpose classroom. It was converted from an old village house, with its old roof timber frame structure intact that consists in the key feature of the space. The rest of the room is simple and plain in the design, using only lighting to create a quiet and spacious feeling of the place. The floor-to-ceiling windows and doors bring the courtyard view into the room. When designing the furniture, doors and windows of the overall space, our designer deliberately positioned the visual center of gravity very low, so that people sitting in the space feel closer to the earth, more grounded and more focused on learning and meditation.
Across the courtyard is a dormitory to host the students during the seminars. Inspired by the form of train compartments, our designer arranged four dormitories and a shared bathroom in the originally limited space. Storage compartments are also provided on the bedroom floor for clothes. The bedroom is only a few square meters in size but very functional so that the space does not appear to be tight. There is also a shared living-space between the two opposite bedrooms, offering the residents a convivial place to share tea.
To create unforgettable memories for the residents, each bedroom has a round window made with Miao traditional handmade paper. When the lights are on at night, looking from the outside, the dormitory walls poetically evoke rising moon.
Project in progress. Opening in October 2021.