Reviving the Porcelain Capital with a Kiln Museum
The Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum in China tries to rediscover the roots of the city through this building, hoping to recreate past experiences through the kiln, porcelain, and people.
The Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum is a joy of discovery, of revealing the past through the design of the present building, through interludes with the historical past of the kiln making industry which formed an important history of Jingdezhen that is revealed fascinatingly between courtyards, through the vertical seams left intelligently by the design team of The Studio Zhu-Pei.
The design head, ZhuPei says, “Using recycled kiln bricks is a significant character in Jingdezhen because brick kilns were demolished every two to three years to maintain the quality of performance of the kilns. Hence, the entire city was covered in recycled kiln bricks. Those bricks record a warmth, inseparable from the lifeblood of the city. In the past, children would carry a warm brick from the firing kilns in their schoolbags to be warm during the freezing winters.”
The material used in the Museum hence plays a vital role in the discovery of the place, as the interplay of the old kiln bricks and new bricks reflects the local culture, arouses interest, curiosity, and brings new questions, inevitably evoking memories. The past cannot be erased but rewritten by recounting a new awareness and maturity, a sort of contemporary archeology according to Zhu-Pei.
Located in the center of the historical area, the site of the Museum is adjacent to the Imperial Kiln ruins surrounded by many ancient kiln complexes. Jingdezhen is known as the “Porcelain Capital” in the world because it has been producing pottery for 1,700 years. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jingdezhen exported a huge amount of porcelain to Europe.
Most of the small alleys in between the kiln complexes approached the Chang river to aid in the transportation of the most important industry of the city with the main streets always along the Chang river to facilitate trade.
Situated on a fairly restricted historical area adjacent to the east side of the Imperial Kiln ruins, the plan of Imperial Kiln Museum was aligned with the north-south street grid of Jingdezhen, with its entry, water pools, bridge, facing west, embracing the Imperial Kiln Ruins, welcoming visitors from Imperial Kiln Relic Park and public pedestrians as they wander through the forest under a green canopy, going through the bridge as if they seem to be flowing into the foyer of the museum.
The Studio Zhu-Pei architects explain the story behind the conception of this vital fold of history of the land and delve into the design features: The Imperial Kiln Museum comprises more than half a dozen brick vaults base on the traditional form of the kiln, each of the vaults is of a different size, curvature, and length. They were naturally applied to the site, carefully integrated with many existing ruins.
The unparalleled, lined, and arched structures of the museum, like old kilns, reach below the level of the street to not only give the flexibility to adapt itself into the complicated site, but also achieve the intimate scale of interior space.
“This strategy – in part is also a response to the height of the surrounding historical buildings that leads to productive ambiguity in relation to the building’s horizontal datum. The “insertion” of the building into the ground of the site produces a series of public spaces at street level; also, more importantly, it allows for the design of a number of more intimate open vaults, and courtyards within the museum. Most of those public spaces are covered, protected from rains because of the heat and the rains during summer in Jingdezhen. One of those open spaces, two open vaults sited in both ends, also reveals traces of the historic fabric on the site,” says design in charge, Zhu Pei.
When one walks on the bridge and enters the foyer, and then turns left, a series of arched exhibition spaces lightly varied in size and with contradicting openness (enclosed or open to the sky)leads to a gentle stairway that takes one down to the underground level with five sunken courtyards. Meanwhile, you can obtain a three-in-one (kilns-porcelains-people) museum experience when you see that porcelain, ruins, and sunken courtyards which create a multi-layer experience. As you turn right at the foyer, you will pass through the bookstore, cafe, room and finally reach a semi-outdoor area under the arch, witnessing a picturesque scene: of the arches reflecting the waves of water while low horizontal gaps tempt people to sit down on the floor to see the long horizon of the imperial kiln ruins. Another surprise element would be created when you see the Longzhu Pavilion of the imperial kiln ruins through the vertical seams on the way to the auditorium before accessing the foyer.
Five sunken courtyards varied in size have different themes: gold, wood, water, fire, soil. Those five themes not only reflect old Chinese thinking about earth but also associated with the porcelain making techniques.
Zhu Pei tells us about the discovery of the ancient kiln making techniques that fascinated him, “I was fascinated by the local ancient kiln tectonic and material. The craftsmen built the brick kiln without scaffolding in a very special way. Thin and light brick kiln achieved a maximum interior space with minimum materials, the brick kilns appeared in an organic form reflecting heat flow from the one end to another.”
The interior natural light is achieved by both skylight and sunken courtyard, inspired by smoke holes of the ancient brick kiln, the skylight in hollow cylinder shape are distributed on the top part of the arch to provide natural light during the day time and artificial light at night.
Project Name: Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum
Location: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China
Completion Date: 2020
Architecture, Interior and Landscape Design: Studio Zhu-Pei
Cooperative Design: Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tsinghua University
Design in Charge: Zhu Pei
Front Criticism: Zhou Rong
Art Consultant: Wang Mingxian, Li Xiangning
Design Team: You Changchen, Han Mo, He Fan, Shuhei Nakamura, Liu Ling, Wu Zhigang, Zhang Shun, Du Yang, Yang Shengchen, Chen Yida, He Chenglong, Ding XinyueCONSULTANTS:
Structural, MEP and Green Building: Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tsinghua University
Facade: Shenzhen Dadi Facade Technology CO., LTD.
Lighting: Ning Field Lighting Design CO., LTD.
Acoustic: Building Science & Technology Institute, Zhejiang University
Client: Jingdezhen Municipal Bureau of Culture Radio Television Press Publication and Tourism, Jingdezhen Ceramic Culture Tourism Group
Main Contractor: China Construction First Group Corporation Limited, Huajiang Construction CO., LTD of China Construction First Group