Located at the former site of an aluminum factory in the Huli District of Xiamen, The Field Studio and Exhibition Space designed by TEAM_BLDG was initially a public bath of the old factory. In 2019, the building was partially renovated after the factory was transformed into a creative office area. Later on, the Buddha artist Jiang Sheng commissioned TEAM_BLDG to renovate the building into a new studio and exhibition space called “The Field.”
The Field Technical Information
- Architects1: TEAM_BLDG
- Principles: Xiao Lei, Yang Yuqiong, Lin Wenjun, Wang Han
- Location: Xiamen, Fujian, China
- Topics: Exhibition Space, Renovations, Buddhist Architecture
- Area: 842 m2
- Project Year: 2020
- Photographs: © Jonathan Leijonhufvud
The building is merely an intermedium to carry the Buddha statues and contain the essence of Buddhism. It’s a “residence” for Buddha in the mundane world.
– TEAM_BLDG Architects
The Field Photographs
Text by the Architects
The word “Elysium” originates from Buddhism, meaning the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss or Sukhavati, but “THE FIELD” is not intended to be an isolated pure land. The owner hopes to abandon the concept of “isolated and unreachable” and create an attractive spiritual place.
Unlike the previous architecture design, this is a purpose-specific space used to exhibit the JIANGJIABAN Buddha statues after the renovation. Therefore, the design needed to reflect humanity and have the divine and religious atmosphere portrayed.
At the beginning of Buddhism, there were no physical subjects for people to rely on. However, with Mahayana Buddhism’s rise and advancement in craftsmanship, Buddhism began to enter the “Age of the Image.” Therefore, interacting with the tangible Buddha statues and architecture to convey the intangible perception has become a great challenge for the design. After the client’s initial communication, we gradually reached an agreement on the design concept: a hidden and even invisible architecture. The building is merely an intermedium to carry the Buddha statues and contain Buddhism’s essence and is a “residence” for Buddha in the mundane world.
However, the form of the old building is still visible; it consists of three blocks, arranged south to north, shaping a rhythmic stepped structure, which we define as Building 1, 2, and 3 according to the number of stories. Building 1 has many windows on the facade, while the interior is divided into five independent spaces. On the east side of Building 2, there is a giant magnolia tree, and the interior of the building is a double-height space. Building 3 on the north side was previously transformed into an office space with a square window arrayed on the facade.
Based on the architectural concept of “the residence of Buddha,” we renovated the building from the inside out. First, we blocked up the windows on the façade of Building 1 and 2, and remove the internal walls of Building 1, thus creating a relatively integrated “darkroom,” emphasizing an introverted, enclosed atmosphere. In the interior of the exhibition hall, we used a lot of white space and integrated background to conceal the details of architectural components so that the shape of the Buddha Statues becomes more prominent.
Afterward, we rearrange and simplified the exterior of the building, making part of the volume solid. The building’s surface is painted with the same sandalwood yellow color as the interior, and the unique texture of the wall was hand-painted by the workers, thus making the three buildings, whose façades were initially different, regain the remarkable integrity and recognition. A tall and dense magnolia tree occupies the center of the sight from a distance, and the building appears more obscured under the cover of the canopy, becoming more subtle and restrained, seemingly absent.
Vessel of light
Light is functioned as the fundamental component of “the Field,” with architectural form blended into it.
Xiamen is located on the Southeast coast of China, with plenty of sunshine and rain. The local traditional buildings all used large slope roofs and small window openings according to local conditions. Inspired by this, we added 31 skylights on top of the building, either round or square, in arrays or isolated, to let the omnipresent light fill in and create two kinds of spaces: a “bright” main hall and a “closed” darkroom, where the Buddha statues are also placed according to the light and dark environment.
The 28 circular skylights at the top of the main hall are recessed upwards, appearing as flat spots of light when the sunlight is oblique and as dense “rain of light” when the sunlight is direct. The Buddha statues in the main hall are mainly carved from dense materials such as wood and stone, and when the light hits them, the light and shadow of the statues constantly change according to the angle of sunlight.
The one-story space connected to the south of the main hall is the “darkroom.” We opened two square skylights of different sizes at the top of the darkroom and a horizontal strip window at the bottom of one wall. Compared to the main hall, the darkroom’s light is more diffuse and hazy, so the Buddha statues in the darkroom are made of transparent materials such as glaze and jade. Under the reflection of light and shadow, the Buddha’s image edges are blurred, sometimes resulting in a Zen state of “rainbowing.”
At different times of the day throughout the year, by “capturing” the light, the invisible time is also revealed. Time flows silently, elaborating the artistic conception of “eternal” and “constant” together with the Buddha statues settled here.
Journey to the Pure Land under the Magnolia Tree
When we first surveyed the site, we were amazed by the huge magnolia tree on the building’s east side. At that time, we did not identify the tree species but protect the tree as much as possible during the design process to make it a landmark for the entire project. However, when the design is completed and half of the construction is finished, the magnolia tree is the same age as the site blossomed inadvertently. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the fragrant aroma of magnolia could still be felt even indoors.
After the renovation, the magnolia tree is like a dharma-vessel of the ” The Field. ” The simple building forms became more obscured under the cover of the dense canopy. The renovation of the windows and doors alongside the street facade enclosed the internal spaces, adding a bit of intrigue to the architecture.
Guided by the magnolia tree, visitors bypass the wall and enter the exhibition hall through the revolving door under the canopy. After arriving at a low foyer, the space automatically guided the circulation into the double-height exhibition hall by the “rain of light” formed by the arrays of round skylights. There are floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the main entrance connecting to the courtyard, blurring the boundary between indoors and outdoors as much as possible. On the south side of the main hall, four doorways lead to the one-story “darkroom” that separates the light from the dark in an orderly fashion.
In one corner of the main exhibition hall, a spiral staircase leads vertically upward to the roof terrace, where the magnolia tree is just close at hand reach, and the fragrance of leaves and flowers welcomes you.
An outdoor staircase was added to a corner of the terrace to connect Buildings 2 and 3. To improve the sense of space and transparency in the office area, we removed the thick elevator shaft walls and added a skylight at the stairwell’s top. A vertical stairwell with changing light and shadow leads down to the fashion showrooms and workshops on the office building’s first and second floors.
The entire building is connected as the “magnolia tree – Buddha statues and light – roof terrace – office space – fashion showroom – magnolia tree” route, forming a cyclical circulation in and out the building. The magnolia tree guides and speaks within the circulation, which is both the start and the end of it.
Difficulties and shortcomings
This project has been limited by construction cost and craftsmanship since the very beginning. Both the client and we agreed that we should design according to the existing site condition. Therefore, it has created a vitality of “rough” in the building and space, which contrasts with the Buddha statue’s exquisiteness.
The exterior of the building and the Buddha statue exhibition hall (most of the spaces such as ceilings, walls, etc.) use texture paint. However, there is no suitable supplier for this texture paint in the local area. The client, the contractor, and we conducted repeated trials and proofing on the site to achieve the final effect. Finally, all the unique textures of the outdoor and indoor walls were hand-painted by the workers.
The finished texture effect makes the three buildings, which had different facade languages, regain remarkable integrity and recognition. Unfortunately, the exhibition hall was original with the same ceiling, floor, and wall, which can make the light and Buddha statues in the space more prominent. Due to construction time issues, the floor was changed into a dark gray emery floor similar to the office area.
Besides, due to the complex urban contexts, after the completion of the building, we found many interesting “accidents”: the original austere meeting room turned pink under the reflection of the red building outside the window; the simple gray window frames looked like purple under the influence of the outside environment. The client eventually decided to keep all these “accidents”; he believes this is also an interpretation of the meaning of “Elysium.”
The Field Plans
The Field Image Gallery
TEAM_BLDG was founded in 2012 by Xiao Lei and Wang Jun. The two founders of the studio consider that the word “BLDG” is a verb that reveals architecture’s meaning. Therefore they are interested in the construction process, and they focus on the “atmosphere” of the space.
Works from TEAM_BLDG