West-line studio, ‘Guizhou Fire Station’, Guizhou, China

Guizhou Fire Station is located at the centre of Guizhou Province, in South-West China.

The building is designed around a trapezoidal shape, which is reminiscent of the shape of the mountain. It gradually rises between two 30m-high trapezoid peaks, creating an iconic slope, from which only few elements stand out: the training tower and the white central hall. The design of this ‘Honour Hall’ is different from the rest of the building, with the aim of creating a holy space. The colour white and deep shadows characterize the space, used for ceremonies in which to reward brave firefighters.

The plan is quite complex due to the morphological features of the site. The building is made of a succession of parallel bands to combine the different programmes and it is arranged on many levels. These are connected by outdoor corridors and boardwalks which, due to the mild temperatures, have been equipped with areas for relaxing, reading rooms and sports equipment to encourage socialising.

The programme involves many functions, from those strictly related with the rescue centre activities to more public areas. The emergency rescue centre includes a ‘Police Square’, and administrative and technical offices of firefighting units. A large physical training and sport area has been designed for the firefighters, with both outdoor and indoor activities; it includes: a stadium, a swimming pool, several gym areas, ping pong tables and a tennis court. Public functions are located in the south-west corner, introduced by an iconic ‘Steps Square’. In this area of the complex, we find public offices, external services and educational areas, linked by a sequence of open and covered courtyards. The white Honour Hall has been designed not only for ceremonies, but also as an exhibition area open to the public.

In this complex of buildings, a severe and strong architectural style always meets open courtyards; some more wide and open, where people can exercise and practise group sports, others more enclosed and quiet. The light also plays an important role giving different personalities to different spaces. While on the swimming pool and indoor sports playground we have a diffuse light, the light in the Honour Hall is ‘measured’ to highlight only a few architectural elements and to create iconic shadows. Particular attention was paid to the design of the staircase; far from being passages or connection between floors, these cores have long cantilevered areas and their own lighting system.

Judges Comments

“Sums up the mixed use – from the outside it looks like a fire station, you walk in and it looks like the MOMA – it’s stunning”