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Tea Leaf Market of Zhuguanlong


    Located in Zhuguanlong Township, Shouning County, Ningde City of Fujian Province in Southeast China, the Tea Leaf Market is built for local people’s tea leaf trading activities. Supported by authorities of Shouning County, the project was successfully completed thanks to the concerted efforts by SUP Atelier, local government, bamboo contractor and local people.

    Long perceived as symbols of Chinese traditional culture, pavilions and towers are not necessarily enclosed; instead, quite a few of them are built with an open gesture, reflecting the concept of harmony between human and nature, which has been deeply rooted in Eastern culture. The tea leaf market, though serving as a shelter against storms, features openness, too. The rammed earth walls, concrete structures and terrazzo floors are put together to present a sort of natural solidness while indicating the human-nature harmony. The metal roof built with modern technologies is joint seamlessly with the light bamboo structure, guaranteeing both durability and climatic adaptability of the building.The lightness and beauty of overhanging eaves of Chinese traditional buildings were described as “looking like stretched wings of beautiful birds” in Classic of Poetry , an ancient Chinese literature classic. And in the remote Zhuguanlong Township, this sort of lightness and beauty are reflected through the innate strength of raw bamboo.

    The tea leaf market is the latest project of SUP Atelier’s rural practices, which are based on material & technology studies and carried out through public participation of local villagers. We take every opportunity to fulfill our commitment to sustainable development and inspire teaching activities in sustainable design with valuable experiences gained in those projects. Just before its completion, the tea leaf market of Zhuguanlong Township was awarded the UIA Award for Innovation in Architectural Education. It’s our great pleasure and honor that the joint efforts of SUP Atelier, local authorities, villagers, the bamboo contractor and the local construction team have paid off.

The largest span of a bamboo cover built with raw bamboo in the world

    At the initial phase of design, the architects, together with local authorities, explored the possibility of a large-span space of high utilization efficiency based on experiences from earlier bamboo construction, as the fundamental and diverse functionality of the market requires a large-span space for gathering. Apart from seasonal tea leaf trading, the market can be used for farm product trading, short stay and children’s sports activities; On special occasions such as weddings, funerals and feasts of beggar festival (a local traditional festival which falls on Aug.1st of lunar calendar), people can also gather under the market’s roof.

    The biggest challenge of the project is to build a large-span structure with raw bamboo. So the architects carried out in-depth studies on building technologies of “rainbow bridge”, a sort of traditional wooden arch bridge, in search of solutions inspired by ancient wisdom. With simple yet reliable traditional technologies, large-span bridges and shelters, seemingly different in building category, can both be built with easily-obtained materials by assembling multiple structural units with appropriate length.

    After loading tests carried out by both SUP Atelier and the bamboo contractor, a bamboo structure, featuring an 18m span, was successfully completed, marking the largest span of a bamboo cover built with raw bamboo in the world.

Lifecycle-based holistic design for material treatment

    Lifecycle-based holistic design of material treatment strategies are proposed to make sure the pavilion would have minimum environment impact locally. Main building material, including stone, bamboo and earth are collected locally, avoiding long distance travel with extra energy cost and pollution. Used material including metal sheet and timber frame from tore-down house are recollected and reshaped as pavilion roof tile, which are durable enough for reuse. Meanwhile, the way of discard of different material is evaluated and way of treating material after the building’s tore-down about 15 years later is suggested, including that earth could be reused as other rammed wall; bamboo and wood could be cleaned and redesigned into furniture; stone could be reorganized as landscape path and paving, etc.

Self-leaded construction and multi-adapted space for village life

    Owing to the large migration of workers in China, skilled workers could be found easily in village recent years, which boost a unique opportunity for buildings to be built by local villager themselves. Guided by architects, the local people are able to create pavilion for their hometown, which largely improve the sense of participation and recognition of their own. Apart from the tea market, the generic space created is suitable for most of village activities including Chinese rural opera, public movie night, villagers meeting and daily leisure activities. As a result, the pavilion could works as a new village center for people daily life in the near future, which is a demonstration of the vision:” of the villagers, by the villager, for the villagers”.