Located adjacent to Yingtan City, Jiangxi Province, the White Crane Lake Visitor Center by Archperience Design is the centrepiece of a comprehensive development initiative for the region. The modern building, aimed at increasing tourism, accommodates many functional requirements within an ambitious 3,000 square meter area and balances a desire to sensitively co-exist with the surrounding landscape of forests, mountains, and the ten square kilometre lake.
Archperience Design took on the project to apply a kind of poetic imagination derived from nature to the new building. The building site is located on a tidal flat and surrounded by the lake to the site's north, south and west sides. There is an extensive bamboo forest to the east. The lake is often shrouded in dense clouds and mist in the early morning, which gently disperse in the surrounding forest. From this phenomenon, the architect developed the concept of "Bamboo Clouds by the Water" to evoke this early morning atmosphere and incorporate four key site elements: water, shore, bamboo, and clouds.
To minimize its visual impact, the building has a decentralized layout to divide the overall form into a series of connected volumes that reduce the overall scale. The rounded forms and curves further soften the impact of the building on the landscape, giving the impression of flow and movement with the surroundings.
The centre is divided into several clearly legible volumes, whose functions include a general reception area, restaurant, conference space, and VIP club, among others. The reception hall is in the southwest portion of the site to offer convenient accessibility. The restaurant meanwhile occupies the northwest side, offering views of the landscape. Administration is in the quieter southeast corner, and the VIP Club is placed on the top floor to maximize lake views. At the centre, a courtyard enclosed by the building volume features a series of elevated walkways and a carefully placed spiral staircase.
The undulating glass volume of the building incorporates a transparent second layer of a so-called "bamboo skin." This continuous skin spears to float over the volume, unifying the separate building masses and lending a sense of fluidity, continuity, and integration with nature.
The form of the bamboo skin was developed through an analytical design process. First, the defining line of the building's envelope was established according to programmatic and formal considerations. Next, secondary points along the envelope were selected as a basis for the undulations of the skin, according to the building's functions and the specific view of the landscape at each point. The result is the appearance of a floating bamboo cloud from the exterior, which also, on a practical level, maintains the best possible views from interior public spaces.
After studying various patterns for the bamboo skin, including through analysis made with Grasshopper software, a light option was finally selected for its clear, translucent quality and practical feasibility as a 'woven' texture for the building's skin. In addition to extensive consultation between the client, architect, and suppliers regarding the materiality of the building's skin, significant on-site testing was conducted to ensure durability and the desired visual and tactile effect. The team ultimately decided to adopt a special surface-treated metal alloy, which provides a robust material resembling bamboo. Though not possessing the tactile qualities of bamboo, the solution was desirable for its long-term viability, ease of maintenance and overall cost.
The skin features a diamond-shaped grid, which serves as a base layer, and a densely interspersed woven layer, supported by a series of curved galvanized steel pipes. The curvature of each steel pipe corresponds to the curvature of the skin. The pipes are spaced vertically at 1500mm intervals to ensure visual consistency of the curtain wall. The careful combination of controlling the number of grid nodes and a completely manual weaving process provides a degree of randomness, successfully achieving a "bamboo cloud" effect.
A comprehensive lighting system is integrated into the building's outer skin so that the complex external latticework lights up when the sun goes down and darkness sets in, like a bamboo lantern floating on the lake.