Xiangshan Campus, Hangzhou

– By Mengfei Yu, Jiehan Li, Hugh Gibbs and Xinyue Zhong –


Walking around the China Academy of Art (CAA) Campus in Hangzhou, you cannot escape the feelings of nature that has impacted the design development of architect Wang Shu. The buildings and its surroundings are undoubtedly one. The architecture seems natural, rammed earth, stacked tiles and stones of different colours, to the vegetation that has growth up the rock walls. Even verticals of hard concrete that litter the site have been softened by the growth of vegetation. A thankful effect as some areas are leaning towards the overpowering feelings of Brutalist architecture. Transitional void spaces create what feels like a layered threshold. You know when you walk into a building, but the feeling of nature isn’t left at the door.


 Moving through the space is exciting. There are combinations of visceral experiences as one moves from one place to the next. Whether these experiences are so joyful all year round is doubtful. The buildings, like a garden, so integrated to nature seems like their feeling will heavily depend on the weather. On a good day the buildings are a journey, bleak darkness of heavy concrete corners to the bright relief of light stone tiles and gardens beyond. An experience played out through irregular rectangular slits, unexpected voids and rolling staircases.



The campus has a range of materials and building methods from rammed earth to concrete. Especially interesting are the recycled materials that range in colour, shape and style; all combined in single facades. However the design goes further than a tactile experience. The different buildings still have one coherent style. The place seems timeless; a new village nestled in the landscape of the old.

The Campus is successful in its comment on the past. The local history is remembered in a physical memory. Architecture that makes a comment can make it easier for the users to do the same, a useful quality for an art school.




Photographs: Jiehan Li, Hugh Gibbs and Xinyue Zhong

Architect: Amateur Architecture Studio
Location: China Academy of Art, 352, Xiangshan, Zhuantang Town, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China