Text description provided by the architects. Hilltop Gallery locates on Yanshan Mountains bordering Beijing and Chengde, where there is a perfect view to Jinshanling Great wall. With 1500㎡ construction area and 2600㎡ floor area, the building not only functions as an art gallery and venue for related cultural projects, but also a reception, dining and exhibition area for Phonenix Valley project.
The site of the gallery is at a saddle on the top of the mountain. We hoped to use the natural terrain to celebrate the idea that the building grows in conformity with the mountain. “Leaning hills and taking advantage of the trend” is the principle we followed in this project. The concept of “势”(potential) itself is also a traditional Eastern philosophy. It is the thinking that ancient Chinese faced in the construction within nature.
A slightly tilted entrance introduces the visitors to the museum’s main exhibition space on the Ground Floor, where it offers unobstructed views to the breathtaking mountainous landscapes in distance and the elegantly resting pine trees in the front, leaving the entire space constantly submerged in nature. Following the undulation of the roof, you will find the exhibitive high space located at the bottom level of the building. The two main floors hosting general art-pieces are interloped by the sweeping loop stairs, and a hall catering for super-scaled art installations is made from a triple-height space.
To the East of the bottom floor where it has physically extended into the mountain is an interactive audio-visual room and a theatre, that do not require much lighting. To the North is the café with an outdoor terrace platform looking to the nature. Except for the elevators, the giant spiral stairs penetrating the whole building can take the visitors straight up to the top floor, which serves as a reception area for the VIP visitors, as well as tearooms and resting and dining areas. The space is flexible for different functional necessities.
To the South is a multifunctional ballroom facing the Great Wall, with a larger scaled space and translucent glass curtains, and an open cooking area gives rise to interactive activities for the visitors.
To the West is a concrete box that works as a connection to the inside and outside. People may approach the peak via the bamboo boardwalk on the roof or even arrive at the Eastern outdoor platform by climbing over the roof. The box melts the spatial boundaries of the entire roof area.
The process of climbing and excursions, combined with the undulating hyperbolic tile roof, is like the winding path leading to a hidden place in the traditional Chinese gardens. At the same time, it resonates with the touring process of Jinshanling Great Wall coincidentally. There is a natural connection between the top and bottom, interior and exterior, and space of the entire Hilltop Gallery, where all the boundaries of spaces are blurred.
The shape of roof is not only in consideration of the internal functional space and aesthetic thinking, but also been subjected to rainwater analysis and wind tunnel experiments. Optimal results have been obtained through deliberation of the digital model and the structural performance of the physical model. In the actual construction stage, the application of digital technology has enabled the precise positioning and construction of complex building structures and forms. Definitely, besides high-tech digital support, it was also quite important to use the most primitive manual work, such as the laying of the bamboo slabs on the roof boardwalk and the traditional terracotta on the roof.
Localized material and construction make such a building belong to the digital era without losing the charm of traditional Chinese architecture. The design and construction of the Hilltop Gallery is another newer attempt to present digital design method in the Chinese context.