Herzog & de Meuron
Project and realization
2004–2006

An architectural park comprised of pavilions of widely differing forms, sizes, and functions has been built in Jinhua. The theme of each pavilion was chosen by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. He asked us to design one of the pavilions and to advise him in the selection of architects for the other projects. The designs, by young architects from all over the world, were presented in the summer of 2004 and have been completed by 2006. The outcome was a gathering of follies such as has never been realized anywhere in the world before.

Since we have been working for more than a year on the master plan for a new city centre in the Jindong District of Jinhua and thus already had very concrete architectural concepts for the complex on our desks, our approach to this small architectural project was unusual. Everything appeared quite simple and logical: our Jinhua Pavilion would merely be a shell consisting of the same geometric pattern we had developed for the buildings in the Jindong district. Like a dominant ordering scheme, the pattern was to cover windows, doors, and all façades as a playful, ornamental element that would contrast with the brick body of the building itself.

For the pavilion, it seemed logical and appropriate to employ the geometrical pattern that had functioned so well as an ordering scheme for all buildings in the master plan. It would be a pure shell that would serve as a veil, quite apart from its functional aspects. But the result was boring, totally uninteresting in terms of spatial configuration, design, and concept.

The geometric pattern was meant to be more than a mere veil. It was to be given depth and project into space and be converted into space in its own right. The pattern was to overcome its superficial two-dimensionality and generate a potential from which the whole world could be imagined and built -somewhat like a molecular structure or a genetic code. In order to accomplish this, the pattern, which in itself is merely an accumulation of intersecting lines, had to be projected onto a fictitious geometric body (we initially selected a cube in the interest of simplicity), from which it could then be projected once again into the interior. Thus projected from all sides, the pattern created a virtual spatial grid consisting of an infinite number of intersecting lines and points of intersection inside the geometric body. This fictitious spatial grid was the potential and the virtual material from which we – with the help of a powerful computer – developed the inconceivable and unimaginable forms and spaces of the pavilion.

However, this pattern turned out to be a real monster when it came to transforming it into three-dimensional space. It became uncanny and suddenly seemed to be speaking a rapidly growing, uncontrollable language of its own, one that we found fascinating but could not understand. How were we to reshape the random forms, figures and spaces generated by the computer and harness them for our purposes? We had to learn to manipulate the computing processes so that they would satisfy our wishes and expectations with regard to the object we were creating. We began to amplify the spatial and topographic features we discovered and found interesting, while suppressing other forms that struck us as silly and useless. In the process, the inherent anthropometric qualities of the pattern suddenly emerged as essential premises that were favorable to the development of useful, usable places. The anthropometric preprogramming of the pattern related primarily to angles of incline and matters of scale, which we had already been able to test on our buildings in the master plan. Once we had eliminated the obviously absurd forms, we were able to focus on examining and selecting the intersecting sets suggested by the computer instead of revising and reworking the form as one would in conventional architecture or sculpture. As often happens when studying a natural rock formation, closer and extended examination of the forms generated by the computer, some of which appeared idiotically bizarre at first, suddenly began to reveal interesting aspects that mutated, so to speak, into topographic features with specific qualities: a bench, a platform, a cave, an overhanging roof, or a treehouse. It is possible not only to recognize all of these topographic features but to actually use them as such. Yet at the same time, they are always somehow invisible and in determinate, rather than being conventionally figurative or functional.

The results of our observations and explorations were so surprising and fruitful that a number of very different pavilions seemed feasible to us. We therefore decided to develop three projects for three different sites: Jinhua Structure I – Cube, a kind of virtual library for the architectural park in Jinhua; Jinhua Structure II – Vertical, a pavilion that rises into the trees for the Fondation Beyeler’s Berower Park in Basel-Riehen; and Jinhua Structure III – Horizontal, a walk-in pergola for an interior courtyard in downtown Genoa.

How will the pavilions be built?

Jinhua Structure I – Cube
The cube for Jinhua will be built of dyed concrete using conventional construction methods. This meant converting digital data into conventional information for the on-site formwork of the concrete structures.

Jinhua Structure II – Vertical
The tree pavilion for Berower Park will be cut from solid, laminated wood on a computer-controlled workbench.

In contrast to Jinhua I, the Basel pavilion therefore will remain a purely digital entity until the completion of its physical construction.

Jinhua Structure III – Horizontal
The pavilion for Genoa was never executed. Unlike the other two pavilions, the finished project would have been a temporary structure.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2007

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Process

Ai Weiwei conceives an architecture park with 17 pavilions for 17 different purposes on a strip of riverside wasteland on the other side of the river to the new Jindong District.

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The strip of no-man’s land is over two kilometers long and mostly no more than eighty meters in width. Ai Weiwei asks Herzog & de Meuron to recommend suitable young architects. Many of them are later involved in his project for Ordos in Inner Mongolia. Herzog & de Meuron design Pavilion 15 at the eastern end of the site.

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Asian scholars’ rocks are the architects’ first point of reference.

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The architects wrap a cube with a linear network of irregular honeycombs, which determines where spaces are to be created.

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The resulting spaces are based on postures that people adopt as they move around, sit or lie down and read.

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The spaces, which all differ from each other, form an open structure. It is approached by a sunken ramp, which creates a protective atmosphere.

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The concrete is dyed to match the color of the soil in the surrounding area; the wood of the roof terrace is painted in the same color.

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The spatial structure, digitally developed on the computer, is converted into an analog model by a local craftsman and constructed from ten-centimeter sections of hand-poured concrete.

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The pavilion is much more than just somewhere to read: users can walk into it, climb on it, and rest here; it is also a sociable meeting place.

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Herzog & de Meuron use the same digital design method to develop a second structure, made from wood, for the exhibition Archiskulptur.

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The method developed for Jinhua can also be used in other situations. The tree sculpture has a footprint of 3 x 3 meters and is 9 meters high.

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Unlike the pavilion for the park in Jinhua, this spatial structure is not built by adding concrete sections, but rather milled out by subtracting material.

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The structure invites various uses—anything from a kennel to a tree house—each of which changes its relationship to the surrounding parkland.

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The wooden structure is not only designed using a computer; it is also realized with the aid of a computer in the form of three blocks, which are assembled at Fondation Beyeler.

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Jinhua Structure II affords users a bodily experience of verticality and offers them various ways of relating to their surroundings.

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Herzog & de Meuron design a third, Styrofoam variant of the Jinhua Structure for an exhibition in Genoa as a walk-in pergola for a courtyard, which is, however, not realized.

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Team

Facts

Client
Jinhua Structure I – Cube: Jindong New District Constructing Headquarters of Jinhua City; Jinhua Structure II – Vertical: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland
Planning
Architect Planning: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Associate Architect: Fake Design, Beijing, China
Structural Engineering (Structure I): WGG Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure AG, Basel, Switzerland
Engineering und Planning (Structure II): SJB.Kempter.Fitze AG, Herisau, Switzerland
Engineering (Structure II): Ingenieurbüro, CNC.Technik im Holzbau, Waldshut-Eschbach, Germany
Wood (Structure II): Holzbau Amman GmbH, Weilheim-Bannholz, Germany; Holzbau Sauer, Höfen, Switzerland; Holzbau Huter, Innsbruck, Austria
Specialist / Consulting
Consultant for wood construction (Structure II): Creation Holz GmbH, Herisau, Switzerland
Wood Transport (Structure II): HIAG Handel Basel; ITA, Füllinsdorf, Switzerland
Building Data
Footprint: 96 sqft, 9 sqm
Length: 9 ft, 3 m
Width: 9 ft, 3 m
Height: 29 ft, 9 m
Links
www.aiweiwei.com

Bibliography

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. The Complete Works. Volume 4.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.

“XS Extreme. Big Ideas, Small Buildings.” Edited by: Phyllis Richardson. London, Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2009. pp. 78-81.

Hubertus Adam: “Follies am Flussufer. Jinhua Architectural Park, 2004-2006.” In: Verband freierwerbender Schweizer Architekten FSAI (Ed.). “Archithese. Internationale Zeitschrift und Schriftenreihe für Architektur. Kunst – Architektur.” Vol. No. 4, Sulgen, Niggli Ltd, 07.2007. pp. 40-45.

Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2007.” 2nd rev. ed. Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 2007.

Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): “Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006.” Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 08.2006.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ai Weiwei: “Jinhua Architecture Park. Ai Weiwei. Interview Hans Ulrich Obrist.” In: Stefano Boeri (Ed.). “Domus. Monthly Review of Architecture, Design, Art and Information.” Vol. No. 894, Milan, Domus S.p.A., 07.2006. pp. 14-29.

Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): “El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006. Monumento e Intimidad.” The Monumental and the Intimate.” Vol. No. 129/130, Madrid, El Croquis, 2006.

Herzog & de Meuron: “Der Jinhua-Pavillon.” In: Markus Brüderlin, Fondation Beyeler (Eds.). “ArchiSkulptur. Dialoge zwischen Architektur und Plastik vom 18. Jahrhundert bis heute. Exh. Cat. ArchiSkulptur. Dialoge zwischen Architektur und Plastik vom 18. Jahrhundert bis heute.” Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Basel. 3 October 2004 – 30 January 2005. Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2004. pp. 207-209.

Location