Seven interconnected clay structures wrap around a glass university building in the booming city of Tianjin. The university, which was established in 1895 and was the first modern higher education institution in China, continues to pave the way for higher education with this new and original design.
Taking inspiration from the famous sculptor Yu Qingcheng, who has become synonymous with clay work, Zhanghua Architects has created a chain of clay-clad masses. These are “broken up by a dynamic sequence of glazed gaps”, the firm explains — namely, the glass building that lies at the heart of the framework. This element of the building appears to be the only constant: the outer structures make the building look as if it is in perpetual motion. Consisting of different sizes and formed of wavy shapes, Zhanghua Architects designed Tianjin Gallery to be a “continuous flowing and changing physical space,” echoing organic cycles and natural structures such as rivers and mountains. To enhance this affinity with the natural world, the architects designed the building to seamlessly blend with the topography of the local land. Grass topped roofs and a rustic reddish clay help to camouflage the building in the surrounding grassy land.
Contrasting the rigid inner structure with the undulating masses of clay is not the only opposition. Drawing on the philosophy of Yin and Yang, the architects play with dualities between different textures, sizes and dimensions to create a building that truly challenges the status quo.