The Architectural Design Institute of South China University of Technology (SCUT) has completed a not-for-profit youth development facility rooted in the mountain village of Pingqiao, in southwest Guizhou Province, China. After attracting donations for the design proposal, Raleigh Campsite was built using material from manufacturers in nearby Guangzhou and work from local craftsmen, working in cooperation to provide opportunities for young people to grow through nature exploration in the field.
The site started as an abandoned primary school with a three-story teaching building. The renovation project adopts a centralized layout with a multi-functional lodge, housing storage, an infirmary, shower and toilet facilities alongside the camping grounds, and a variety of outdoor venues built on the south wing from the renovated teaching centre. A village library is set up on the junction of the campsite entrance and the village road open to the community, providing a space for children to read, play and seek help for schoolwork.
“In moderate yet rainy Guizhou, rain-proofing and ventilation are the primary needs of local buildings.” — Lead architects from the Architectural Design Institute of SCUT
The multi-functional lodge — the most important space in the campsite — uses the semi-transparent undulating HyperMembrane roof to build up a continuous space open to the mountains and villages. Platforms on the second floor rise in altitude. With its ability to maximize natural light, the transparent façade presents internal activities to the village, which glows from the inside-out when the lights are switched at night.
Pixelated Bamboo Interfaces
Bamboo is abundantly available in the region and has been prominently used for construction of the project due to its impressive versatility, rigidity and density of usage. Facing the road, the campsite’s reception and library feature translucent bamboo-mold interfaces combining cast-in-place and local masonry craftwork whose volumes are carefully defined to structure dynamic connection with the lodge and border. Inspiration for the building’s form and materiality came from the traditional building materials in this area.
The library consists of a wooden reading-room facing the village road. It also holds a reception area facing the campsite entrance, which has become a favorite place for local children to read, play and seek help for schoolwork.
Open-Air Theater Space
Located on the western side of the multifunctional space, the semi-circular terrace theaters form group activity places of diversified scale and form together with the bamboo interface where new service facilities (washrooms, toilets, shower rooms, kitchen) were set up around the main activity area.
Another traditional material used to to identify the project is stone. The ground surfaces bedded with gravel for good drainage, the seating areas of the open-air theatre spaces covered with stepped stone, and the ground floor of the multi-functional lodge paved with local stone provide a subtle threshold between the lodge and the outside.
In Conversation with SCUT
With such an innovative way of combining architecture with bamboo, we got in touch with the design team to tell us more about Raleigh Campsite.
NONAGON.style: What are the design inspirations for the project?
SCUT designers: The first inspiration came from my own Raleigh experience of being a venturer in a 1998 Raleigh international expedition. It makes me aware that people in Raleigh are expecting real, profound and extraordinary experiences. On the other hand, Guizhou is a place of mountains, the climate is moderate yet rainy, and these form the local bamboo/wooden stilted houses and characteristics stone residence. All these impressed me and become powers forming the design scheme. The site was certainly an important feature to base on developing the design scheme.
What is the most interesting part of the project to work on?
Since this project is launched by Raleigh China, a charity youth development organization, the architect had been playing a part of the role as a client. These made the design team think more and deeper. And this project is a multiparty work with the construction was jointly completed by manufacturers, local craftsmen and Raleigh teams, so we had to design concise joints for different teams to relay collaborate. Integrating materials of local bamboo, stone, bamboo-molded concrete, and light-steel skeleton membrane is also an interesting exploration for the design team.
What was the site like before the project started?
When I first arrived at the project site, a withdrew primary school on the mountainside with only one building, I saw two little girls playing seesaw game in a deserted classroom. It came to me that it’s not just a campsite needed here but an active place to bring sustained change to the community, especially children. It probably led to the little library set open to the children.
How was the school shaped and changed since the initial building of the project?
To build was began with the renovation of the existing building as the command center, and taking it as an anchor, a multi-functional pavilion and a circle outdoor venues were extended to the south. The pavilion is topped with undulating HyperMembrane covering a continuously open space. This new intervention changed the site into an open shelter dialogue with the mountains environment while presenting itself on the landscape scale.
Were there any major difficulties in executing this project?
Firstly the budget of the project construction, a charity organization need special donation for such building activities, so the design scheme was presented to enterprises and succeeded in obtaining contribution. Secondly the bamboo material and it’s processing, it took over a year of searching and experimenting to make sure that the interfaces of the pavilion should be all made of local bamboos and after processed by local Buyi craftsmen, were installed onto the framework by Raleigh volunteers. And the most difficult issue had to be creating extraordinary experiences through low cost and low constructional accuracy. It’s the key item in the design thinking in this project.
What was the response of the clients on completion of the project?
To our delight, we got very good feedback from both Raleigh and the local community. The campsite often appears on the social media of the Raleigh venturers, volunteers, staff and partners, becoming an icon of Raleigh community. The library provides a warm place for children to read, play and seek help for schoolwork. They love it and often stay till night. As the teachers said, the children have become happier, more open and got better performance in learning. And after getting some design awards, Jeff the donor, an outstanding and young entrepreneur personally sent me a message for congratulations.
What advice would you give yourself looking back at the project?
The general review made us proud of this project. In next rural or campsite projects, we might try harder to control the construction quality such as spending more time and resources to find suitable construction teams and delivering more communication with the construction teams about how to adapt to a rural environment with traffic occlusion and low constructional accuracy.
What do you think of the artistic campsite designed to promote youth development in the mountain village?
For more like this, make sure to check out the story of the schoolroom with the stylish staircase.