Completed in March 2021 by Chinese Architecture firm West-line studio, the Cuisuba Yi Cultural & Visitor center was conceived as a landmark to pay homage to the Yi people, an ethnic minority group mainly residing in the mountainous regions and rural areas of South-West China. The building grows from a slope with a maximum inclination of 20 degrees, surrounded by mountains all around.
Cuisuba Yi Cultural & Visitor Center Technical Information
- Architects1-4: West-line-studio
- Location: Dafang County, Guizhou Province, China
- Client: Guizhou Province Dafang County Keteleeria River Tourism Investment Development Service Co. Ltd
- Site Area: 1,565 sqm
- Building Area: 2,569 sqm
- Materials: Concrete Frame structure, Black metal frame, Insulating glass
- Topics: Cultural Centers, Concrete
- Project Year: 2021
- Photographs: © Haobo Wei, © Jingsong Xie
Symbolism has always played a significant role in West-line Studio’s work, and in this cultural center, the connection with Yi’s ancient culture appears through many layers. The building mass resembles the traditional Yi sacrificial altar, where sacrifices refer to offers. In its simple volume, the building is characterized by an iconic roof consisting of a concave arc. This architectural gesture aims to respond to the tension of nature and refers to Yi sacrificial symbols.
– West-line studio Architects
Cuisuba Yi Cultural & Visitor Center Photographs
Text by the Architects
On a northwestern Guizhou typical plateau, placed at an altitude of above 2,000 meters in-between untouched grassland hills and mountains, stands the Cuisuba Yi Cultural & Visitor Center. Completed in March 2021, the center was conceived as a landmark to pay homage to the Yi people, an ethnic minority group mainly residing in the mountainous regions and rural South-West China areas. The building grows from a slope with a maximum inclination of 20 degrees, surrounded by mountains all around. Commissioned by the Dafang County Tourism Development Office to provide the basic structure to promote tourism in the area, the center aims to become a symbolic landmark celebrating Yi culture.
West-line Studio has a long history in building cultural centers in Guizhou province influenced by local ethnic minorities; the practice’s approach has always been characterized by profound research on the peculiar cultural aspects of a particular community, which can result in rites, fabrics, patterns, construction techniques, festivals, and pictograms, to bring some of these unique features into the design, creating a strong bond with local culture and collective memory.
For thousands of years, the Yi people have been considering the plateau a sacred place to worship heaven and earth and celebrate the ‘Torch Festival,’ one of their main holidays. The festival commemorates a famous Yi wrestler who used pine tree torches to stop a locusts’ plague. Symbolism has always played a significant role in West-line Studio’s work, and in this cultural center, the connection with Yi’s ancient culture appears through many layers. First of all, the building mass resembles the traditional Yi sacrificial altar, where sacrifices refer to offers. In its simple volume, the building is characterized by an iconic roof consisting of a concave arc. This architectural gesture aims to respond to the tension of nature and again refers to Yi sacrificial symbols.
The roof establishes a dialogue with the sky through the skylight system, and the concave shape works as a rainwater collector. Via the gutter system, the water vertically flows through the outdoor courtyards, creating a vertical connection of light and rain throughout the building while solving the internal lighting and ventilation. Another essential feature is the outdoor concrete ramps, which with their folding and undulating movement, evoke the ascension procession over to hills during the ‘Torch Festival.’
The construction system is based on concrete technology mixed with local sand. The sand mixture helps engrave the wooden texture given by the formworks, realized with recycled panels from declining Yi houses and local pine wood. The rough concrete interiors, together with the black metal window frames and ceiling, help frame the outdoor landscape, making it the interior atmosphere’s protagonist.
The three floors are characterized by a free plan where two structural units combine all the main service functions; this spatial production mode derives from the so-called ‘group technology,’ typical of Guizhou mountain villages. With its red and yellow skylights, the indoor hanging courtyard creates a holy atmosphere and a sense of ritual space from the contrast between the colored lights and the dark space below. The indoor atmosphere is kept dark on purpose so the bright outdoor scenery can stand out; visitors become silent wanderers of the wild grassland and are immersed in a suspended time as gazers of history.
The indoor spatial layout combines the ritual mnemonic structure with a more contemporary functional system. Yi Cultural Center aims to become a wordless monument that stands alone, resembling Yi culture through symbolism and creating a ritual atmosphere.
Cuisuba Yi Cultural & Visitor Center Plans
Cuisuba Yi Cultural & Visitor Center Image Gallery
About West-line studio
West-line Studio is based in Guiyang, the Guizhou province of South-West China, and exclusively works in that region. The practice was founded in 2001 and has constantly been researching and working on contemporary vernacular architecture around the Karst geomorphologic area and local subcultures’ diversity.
- Lead Architects: Haobo Wei, Jingsong Xie
- Architecture and Landscape: Yudan Luo, Ke Zhou, Minghua Ou, Bin Liu
- Structure: Yuanping Li, Dingping Fu
- Project Manager: Xuanqin Gong