Text description provided by the architects. In 2016, Maogong government and Dimen Eco-Museum decided to convert an old vacant barn into an Art Center for local communities as a new culture carrier. Approach Architecture Studio turned this redevelopment commission into a pivotal project of Maogong revitalization plan.
Similar to most of the remote villages and towns, Maogong forms with a county highway crossing as a main spacial structure. On both sides of the highway, there are small rural retail and wholesale buildings that have evolved over decades, serving farmers in surrounding villages. A few abandoned storage space and supply marketing agencies are legacies of the planned economy era, neighboring with post offices, banks, hardware tools, materials, telecommunications, restaurants and so on. Some are traditional local post-and-beam wood structures and more are recent concrete structures.
In the past few years, promoted by the Dimen Eco-Museum and curator Zuo Jing, local government began the action to resume Maogong as the service center of the original villages around the radiation area and to undertake the increasing demands of the outside tourists visiting the Dong villages nearby. It will significantly reduce the unregulated constructions in these historical reserved ancient villages, causing by the tourism reception capacity limits.
The design strategy of Approach Architecture Studio is to seek the courtyard utilization of the open space between the existing buildings and the road, and to treat the space between the corridor and the courtyard as the buffer zone. The old barn houses and its surrounding old buildings are arranged as a cultural space with local handcraft and agricultural product showrooms, together with artists’ workshops, studios, catering gifts, and other ancillary facilities.
Applying with local traditional techniques and materials, the exterior consists of corridors between the noisy highway and the quiet exhibition hall, and it divides the existing outdoor space into three courtyards of different sizes, shapes and purposes.
Unlike most of the contemporary architectural practicing in urban China, the new additional buildings are designed with local wood construction techniques and materials, with several improvements and revisions. While the old barn house has retained most of the old walls, the entire redevelopment project was built by local carpenters and farmers, using 100% local renewable building materials and supplies.