We, the students of urbanism and architecture from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Ljubljana (UL FA), teamed up with the students of the Tsinghua University, China, to take part in an international competition 2019 UIA-CBC International Colleges and Universities Competitive Construction Workshop, where we were awarded Second Prize. Our mentors were Wang Hui, Zhu Ning, Zhou Zhengxu and Guo Yong from the School of Architecture of Tsinghua University and Dr. Alenka Fikfak from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Ljubljana. Under their supervision we designed and built a cabin titled “Lie Between”, which serves as an open-air theatre.
The main purpose of the competition (selection of proposal) and workshop (construction of cabins) was to highlight the issue of the rural environment in Guoyuan Village, which has been confronted with the problem of monotonous industrial development. However, the village is renowned for its century-old white pear orchard, which creates an advantage for further development. The involved teams explored the potentials of this rural area through the design of 15 cabins inside the pear orchard. The cabins’ design was based on rural elements, spatial experiences, and topics related to orchards. The student teams set up spaces and structures for activities and hanging out of villagers and visitors. Through landscaping and cabin design they tried to contribute to the change and improvement of the living quality in rural areas and allow for developing potentials for their activation and further development.
The design proposal submission deadline was in March 2019, and in May 2019, among the 101 entries submitted, the international jury selected 15 finalists, who were invited to make their vision come to life. One of the selected design proposals was that by the joint team of the Tsinghua University and the University of Ljubljana titled “Lie Between”. The construction of the selected cabins took place between 31 July and 18 August 2019 in Guoyuan Village, China. UL FA team’s visit to China was supported by Gorenje Group, which has, as part of its social responsibility strategy, a long-established tradition of collaboration with various faculties, both in development and research activities as well as in the field of intercultural collaboration. The Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Ljubljana offered exceptional help to the students and made sure that their trip to China was seamless.
The Lie Between cabin, as an open-air theatre, is based on the concept of connection with human spirituality, following the idea of “lying between heaven and earth”. Its image is suspended above the Earth, creating a hidden thought of connecting places, people, and events. During our visit to the site we go through various stages of arriving at a place of meeting and departing to a place of contact with the infinity of the sky. The pavilion becomes a place of meeting, play, relaxation, and connections among people.
The main, load-bearing skeleton consists of metal profiles, while local wood was used for all other elements. The façade envelope is made of ropes looped around the structure, creating the ambience of a theatre and paraphrasing theatre curtains. One of the main design specifics is the curved roof, onto which you can climb. It is covered by branches gathered nearby. This provided a link between the cabin and the rural surroundings. The space below the roof offers a stage for performances, playing, hanging out, getting together for tea, enjoying the company of others, meeting acquaintances and new people, while the roof also doubles as a stand offering the views of the surroundings. The entire orchard becomes a prop, the roof “undulates” above the events on Earth and leads us to the infinity of thinking in the sky.
The surroundings of the pavilion were also landscaped to bring out both built and natural spatial qualities, which add to the cabin’s experience and programme. The path along the site was circular and many small ambiences were created, based on the design principle of experiencing the individual sequences. The approach to the pavilion from the village road begins with a narrow road zigzagging past the pear trees across a peanut field and ending up at the external stand. This makes the experience and approach to the cabin sequential, as the path gradually reveals the cabin through the various narrowings and situations. The external stand, wherefrom the visitors will see shows on the covered stage of the pavilion, is made of bamboo, an important traditional material, and is well integrated into the surrounding landscape. Thereon the path leads us through the covered part of the pavilion, allowing us to approach the stage or the outdoor games, which the students made by hand and are intended for all visitors. The path continues to the access to the roof, yet another stand, which serves to connect people but also individuals – with the surroundings, the sky, and the earth. From the roof the path zigzags across the fields back to the main road, where our experience and the path come to an end.
The final assessment of the pavilion consisted of three key elements: integration of the cabin into the environment, its functional design, and the making of details. According to these criteria, the Slovenian-Chinese cabin was awarded second place, i.e. silver international prize for collaboration in the design and construction of the cabin.
2019 UIA-CBC International Colleges and Universities Competitive Construction Workshop
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
Team from University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture:
Mentor: Assoc. Prof. Dr Alenka Fikfak
Associates: Marko Lazič and Aleš Švigelj
Urban planning students: Lanlan Wei, Jan Barič, Zala Bokal, Zala Koleša, Katarina Kuk, Jaka Veber, and Arian Todorović-
Team from Tsinghua University, School of Architecture:
Mentors: Wang Hui, Zhu Ning, Zhou Zengxu, Guo Yong
Students of architecture: Guo Yuqi, Ji Ruochen, Lei Yuxin, Cao Yuxuan, Mao Yu, Guo Hao, Hong Chuihan