A Living Dragon Kiln: The Narrative of Longyao Cultural Center
The town of Dingshu is a key pottery production area for Yixing, a city known as the Ceramics Capital of China. The Qianshu Dragon Kiln is located in a small village within Dingshu that was established during the Ming Dynasty. Today, it is the only active dragon kiln in the Yixing area that still uses traditional pottery-making methods, earning it the nickname of “The Living Dragon Kiln”. This project involves the design and construction of an indoor exhibition area for the Longyao Cultural Center (note: longyao translates to “dragon kiln”). In order to reflect the history and development of dragon kilns in Yixing, as well as the pottery-making process and the traditional worship culture, the design adopts a modern exhibition layout that creates an immersive experience through the organization of movement patterns in the space. The center imparts and promotes the intangible cultural heritage of the Qianshu Dragon Kiln through its use of space.
The design team first determined the cultural image of dragon kilns, and then applied that image to the whole space. At the same time, based on the content and flow of the exhibition, abstract renderings of dragon kilns were designed at the main entrance, staircases, and other high-traffic public areas to echo the historical context. The related images strengthen viewers’ cognition of the dragon kiln as an important object of culture. Sculptures, murals, and other detailed artwork also play off the kiln images to heighten the experience of visitors to the center.
A model dragon kiln and traditional firing tools: Three-legged stools are the main visual image of the entrance. The staircase is made into the shape of a dragon kiln, which visitors must walk through to enter the second-floor exhibition hall. The scene of ceramic pots piled under the stairs was restored. From the top of the stairs, wooden hoisting framework in the shape of a dragon kiln and the center itself superimposed on the outer structure refine the artistic quality of dragon kiln culture.
Longyao Cultural Center has two floors, the ground floor of 200 square meters and the second floor of 170 square meters. The original architecture of the building was not designed for exhibitions, so the new circulation needs to be adapted to suit visual needs and the organization of the exhibition hall without changing the shape of the existing space.
Since its completion, Longyao Cultural Center has become the first stop for people to learn about pottery culture in China. With the annual Ceramics Exposition and the revered Dragon Kiln Opening Ceremony also being held at the center, it has become a unique celebration of Dingshu Town’s heritage. Perhaps most importantly, the narrative of space in the exhibition hall has helped to pass down the history and culture of this extraordinary area.
Shen Yang, male, Doctor of Engineering, is now an associate professor at the School of Architecture, Southeast University, deputy director of the Institute of Architectural History &Theory, deputy director of Key Scientific Research Base of Technique of Traditional Wooden Architecture, State Administration for Cultural Heritage, China, researcher of Key Laboratory of Urban and Architectural Heritage Conservation of Ministry of Education, China, principal of S&Y Atelier (SEU ARCH). His main directions are the Chinese architectural history and urban, architectural heritage protection and he directed a number of national, ministerial research projects. He devoted to exploring the depth and breadth of architectural history research on the basis of predecessors and scholars and also advocated an open-minded attitude to comprehensively applying multidisciplinary approaches to study urban and architectural complexes of art and engineering. Furthermore, he paid attention to the concepts, culture and society behind settlement, architecture and landscape.