Xihoudu historical site is not only the cradle of China’s Yellow River civilization, but also one of the most important archaeological sites of ancient human activities. Found in late 1950s, here remains the vestige of fire firstly controlled by human beings about 1.8 million years ago.
In 2016, the Shanxi Provincial Government built a Holy Fire Plaza for a public torch relay circulating around the province. A rush campaign for the construction left an unpleasant Holy Fire Plaza, and a construction junk yard to its west side. In 2017, the 2nd Youth Games of China was planned to be hosted in Shanxi in 2019, and its flame gathering program called for the re-use of Xihoudu Holy Fire Plaza. The challenge is to design something new without dismantling the existing facilities. To fulfill this requirement, as well as to integrate the artificial plaza with the surrounding landscape, the new design aims to make a mystical, spiritual and philosophical place, and to reinterpret the ancient Chinese belief of achieving the ultimate harmony between the nature and the man.
With three sequential narratives of “discovery of fire”, “rite of fire”, and “conquest of fire”, these designated themes from the east to the west of the site not only conform to program of the sports game ceremony, but also form a space-time context for visitors to enjoy the unique nature and the history.
“Discovery of fire” is to use a cave to hide the structure of former stage to receive the fire from sunlight. The discovery of fire is illustrated with a split of seam cutting through the cave to bring the light from the heaven. Besides, interactive acoustic installations hanging in the cave ceiling allow visitors to make voices of whatever they want in a semi-closed capsulated space that connects the heaven and the earth.
“Rite of fire” is to blend the existing stage with more stages to mimic the topography of the surrounding environment.
“Conquest of fire” is to clean up the west side junk yard caused by former construction by means of digging trenches on the ground, an economically minimal and time-saving measure which also reminds of archeological digging.
After the relay event, Xihoudu has since become an attractive tourist spot. The new design has encouraged the development of local tourism economy, promoted the continuous propagation of Xihoudu culture, and set a model for similar historical preservation projects.