It is like a pocket space where an alley opens to a street. It is messy and trivial, yet it matters to those who live here. This urban design project aims at those small spaces that are always neglected by planners, but actually so important in making urban living worthwhile. Zhongshan St. is a typical main street with mixed used of small blocks of commercial and residential in downtown Lishui, a small city that is surviving in the trend of rapid urbanization in China. Local urban renewal company was eager to upgrade this street to keep pace with the dramatic change of urban landscape nearby, and called for proposals. With limited budget, an unconventional measure was suggested in this proposal to focus on these intermittent tiny pocket spaces that had been abandoned mostly for illegal random parking, and to bring back the once lively outdoor alley life, as opposed to regular planning vision on overall landscape. The precedent case of this spatial typology, so called “pavilion of wind&rain”, can still be found in nearby rural area, with rough wooden roof and long benches on both sides. Regardless of wind or rain, villagers love to gather here at the neck of the alley, exchanging tabloids, playing with caged birds, or watching chess play. This experience of living environment is the exact “genius loci” that needs to be reclaimed. This very concept of “pavilion of wind&rain” is reintroduced into pocket spaces in a contemporary way by marriage with public art. Different forms of art installations are chosen based on the size and proportion of a pocket space. The vernacular cultural symbols are reinterpreted and transformed by an abstract language. There is a well known large house in an ancient village in this area. The corridor inside has two round doorways with overhead wall inscribed by calligraphy – “mirroring the moon”. Traditional dwellings may be hard to find nowadays, but spatial forms like “mirroring the moon” may still allow locals to find some traces of past living memories. The artworks hanging on both sides of the wall are made of layers of stainless steel and corten steel. The different textures and cuts compose an image of full moon reflected in the water ripples. On the full moon night, the bright moon in the sky and the "moon" on the wall complement each other. Another example is the kiln-shaped installation at a street corner. This area is famous for firing celadon. People love porcelain, but pay little attention to the kiln that fires it. Glazed bricks were used to form a special transmutation of glaze effect on the skin of this kiln. At night, young couple light candles inside. Through holes between bricks, it looks as if thousand year old kiln fire had added a layer of shiny gloss to the outside enamel. This contemporary installation of kiln freezes a moment of flambé glaze on site that reminds the locals of their long history of firing celedon pottery. Carving out of the somehow chaotic background, the remodeled pocket spaces have managed to inspire nostalgia and reclaim the urban life in a more dramatized way, by turning into small open-air art galleries for people relaxing, chatting, and getting involved in all kinds of civic activities.
Credits: - Lead Architect - Min Zhuo - Associate Architect - Xin Chen - Associate Architect - Sangshuang Liu