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A hybrid exhibition and research space has come into full bloom in the southernmost city of Hainan Island, China. Sanya Farm Lab, designed by Beijing-based CLOU architects, is a multipurpose infrastructure interlocked with ties between traditional and modern—as well as society’s shifting attitude and support for a better connection to nature.

Sanya Farm Lab is based in Nanfan High Tech District of Sanya—a district known for its seed development. The client brief for the new hub was developed to accommodate the government’s interest in creating a building to foster research on tropical plants, in addition an investigative space specifically for the research of “environmental change, land/water scarcity and food production issues”. Added with the growing interest in the desire to connect with rural life (I mean, have you seen Li Ziqi’s videos?!), as well as in increased popularity in rural tourism.

The architects designed an impressive 4,000-square-metre four-storey building that blurs the principles between research and social; and indoor-outdoor relationships. The overarching scale was achieved through three stages—stage one involved establishing the perimeter of the outdoor spaces within the building, followed by creating interconnections with accessways before completing the third with a breathtaking timber façade to enclose the facility.

 

Related: Timber Community Food Hub by University of Berkeley + Kengo Kuma.

 

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Across each level are different activities that allow effortless interaction between visitors and agricultural display. The ground floor is filled with vertical farming and other rural showcases, with kitchen and bar allowing visitors to enjoy farm-to-table cuisine. Travelling upwards, connected by a statement spiral staircase, is a cantilevering first floor serving as a multipurpose theatre and discussion space that offers terrace views towards the north. The second and third is a playground terrace for children to enjoy and appreciate the framework of the impressive structure. Across the ground to third floors, office and back of house spaces station themselves in the northeast end of the floor.

To further the relationship between nature and people within the science building, micro landscapes dot themselves as implied boundaries for programs and wayfinding across each level. Ambitious vertical gardens—though planted on the ground floor—manage to stretch themselves into the discussion space on the first floor. Similarly, a void is punctured through the very same level allows for a tree to grow while being managed by agricultural robots.

 

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Additional ties to nature and heritage are subtly made through the exterior façade. The gridded tectonic framework of 800mm thick laminated timber veneers infilled with grid-patterned frosted glazing is inspired by the architecture of local Hainan Li people. Such ties are also a conscious design to maintain the climate inside—for it reduces the solar intake while leaving the aesthetic refreshing and innovative.

As someone with a fascination for indoor plants, I’d be keen to take lessons from this building. There’s an impressive architecture to admire, and open spaces to socialise and learn from. Added the opportunity to take a break from the city life in a contemporary context, it makes this contemporary greenhouse an attraction plant enthusiasts wouldn’t want to miss.

 

Related: 100% Wood House in Amboise, France by Local & Suphasidh.

 

 

 


[Images courtesy of CLOU architects. Photography by Shining Laboratory.]

 

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