In a collaboration that combines Chinese and Dutch cultures, Holland Dafang Creative Village brings new life to rural China with this unique artist village. The motivation behind the new community is to reverse the ongoing trend of mass migration in China towards major cities, leaving villages such as Dafang (Jiangxi province) at risk of abandonment.
The project team of NEXT, with IVEM (Dutch Institute for heritage and marketing), Smartland landscape designers and Total Design graphic designers worked collaboratively to develop a flexible and inspiring environment in which Dutch and Chinese artists could work, interact and exhibit together.
The village has been restored with materials that are new and modern, yet also create a dialogue between the site’s contemporary and historic elements. New materials include, for example, glass roof tiles used to restore the roof of old houses. Alongside this, the village’s ancient irrigation system has been thoroughly modernized, adding elements such as a natural helophyte filter to clean water.
Two new structures form anchors to the plan. The first, a watchtower, is inspired by traditional tower structures used in regional villages for defense purposes. The new tower comprises two intertwining routes that resemble a giant Chinese ‘Dragon Column’ and provides views of the village and beyond. Locally, the watchtower is embraced as the ‘Wandering Tower,’ a cultural reference to famous Chinese poet Li Bai about people waiting for loved ones to return to their hometowns.
A second key building is a new public hall a the heart of the plan and on the site of a courtyard destroyed during the cultural revolution. The inspiration and shape of the new hall’s roof comes from the canopy of the village’s century-old camphor tree, under which locals have socially gathered for decades. Further to this, the hall includes a terracotta clad tile façade that provides habitat for birds.
In addition, a new museum, library and expansive art studio programme aim to bring life, culture and artistic activity back to the village.
The village made its grand opening to great success and numerous visitors in April 2020.