West-line Studio, Cultural Center in Chetian (China)
Fotos: JIngsong Xie, Haobo Wei
Located in Chetian, a small rural village in southwestern China well known for its stone houses, built with local materials, the cultural center rises with the mission of preserving the ancestral knowledge and historical legacy of the Miao people, one of the country’s oldest ethnic minority groups, most of whose members live in Guizhou Province.
The architecture of the building is characterized by massive, 40-centimeter-thick walls of a blue-toned stone extracted from local pits and composed mainly of limestone and dolomite. Unfortunately the group’s traditional construction techniques were lost to oblivion in the course of time, and to retrieve them a painstaking study of houses still standing was undertaken, ultimately resulting in the development of a new masonry system that combines vernacular know-how with contemporary procedures and techniques. Although the cultural center has a unitary appearance, construction work was carried out by three successive local teams, each with its own project leader aided by his own squad of artisans and applying his own methods of extracting, cutting, and installing the stone.
The strong and almost obsessive use of stone both outside and inside yields a highly intimistic building that is profoundly connected to the unique material and cultural history of the place where it stands.
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