West-line studio, ‘Shui Cutural Centre’, Guizhou, China

Located in the Southern Guizhou Province, this Cultural Centre is a gateway to the land of the Shui. The Shui are one of the ethnic minority groups in China who still retain their own language, together with their unique system of pictographs. The architecture’s iconic shape pays homage to the Shui language, following the shape of the character for ‘mountain’. The facade pattern is also inspired by Shui’s traditional characters, where perforated bronze plates evoke the character for ‘rain’.

The site, which covers an area of 13,800m², was created by a bend in the river, so it is surrounded by water on three sides. On the other, the west side, a water square welcomes the visitors. ‘Shui’ means ‘water’, which is why this element is so relevant for both the site and the project.

Shui’s culture is also evoked by the material choice. Bronze, which can be found in their altars, inspired the architects to use perforated bronze steel plates to cover the building. The pattern makes the plates lighter – a thin skin that creates a contrast with the heavy concrete structure – breaking the sunlight to create a dramatic effect once inside. The concrete is marked strongly by a wooden pattern, given by the pine quarterdecks. Pine wood is one of the most common materials in the Sandu area and the contemporary concrete structure echoes the local traditional of wooden architecture.

The building itself comprises three main stripes, which combine all the functions of the tourist-cultural centre. The ritual hall is characterized by sharp edges, strong colours and a narrow space, which all aim to create a strong first impression on visitors. The second stripe still keeps the sharp roof but welcomes visitors with less dramatic tones and serves as reception hall. In the third stripe, which has two floors, at the ground level we lose the pitch roof to find a more conventional space that includes all the main functions: visitor and service centre, cafeteria, toilets, business centre and an upstairs office area.

With its iconic and distinct shape, the Shui Cultural Centre stands as a new contemporary landmark that pays homage to the local culture and traditional architecture. The Shui culture is evoked using particular materials and shapes but also in the recreation of a holy space, able to submerge the visitor who is guided into a magic journey through the Shui’s ancestral world.


Judges’ Comments

“The structrure is remarkable, it is an amazing achievement”

“It’s clearly connected to its environment”