American Academy in China Announces Winners of Napavilion Competition

School News

American Academy in China Announces Winners of Napavilion Competition

May 18, 2016

The University of Southern California’s American Academy in China (AAC) selected seven winners in an open competition to design prefabricated wood structures to be built at Jade Valley Winery outside of Xi’an in western China. Called “Napavilions,” these small constructions will be built in the vineyards, offering guests and workers ideal places to take naps or enjoy the views. Three of the winners will be built in June and July and will be ready for snoozing at a Napavilion Festival on July 23 hosted by Qingyun Ma, dean of USC’s School of Architecture and owner of Jade Valley Winery. The other four designs will be built later. 


The top three entries come from practices in very different places and take strikingly different approaches to the challenge of designing a small building that can be prefabricated and assembled quickly on-site. “Woodokan” by Hajime Yoshida Architecture in Osaka, Japan, is a horizontal cylinder wrapped in metal on the outside and wood on the inside. “SkySleeper,” by the British/Romanian firm Estudio ESSE, is an A-frame structure that places the sleeping platform at the apex to maximize views and breezes. “POD.NA (Portable Operational Deployable Napping Area),” which was designed by four undergraduate architecture students at USC, suspends a basket-like napping vessel from a multi-legged wood frame. 


The competition jury was Dean Ma, AAC director Clifford Pearson, USC professor Gary Paige, and AAC research fellow and critic Michael Sorkin and made its selection without knowing the identities of the designers. Speaking of “SkySleeper,” Sorkin remarked, “That’s the one I want to nap in.” Dean Ma said he could imagine “POD.NA” engineered as a kit you could carry in a backpack and assemble quickly anywhere.” An elegant tube lined with wood, “Woodokan” provides a cave-like space that’s protected but open to views at its two ends, said Pearson. 


The four entries to be built later are: “Mooring Pavilion” by a group of architects and engineers in Tianjin, China; “Pillow” by Ida&Billy Architects in Hong Kong; “Pinocchio’s Whale” by Architect Andrea Falcon (aaf) in Bologna, Italy; and “Unlimited Expandable Pavilion” by Farhad Arbab, Fariba Arbab, and Mercedeh Vazirian from Mashhad, Iran. 


AAC and Jade Valley also commissioned six established architects—Lawrence Scarpa, Gary Paige, Scott Uriu, Geoffrey von Oeyen, Noreen Liu (NODE), and Tiantian Xu (DnA)—to design Napavilions, which will be built this summer. 


“The goal of the Napavilion competition is to challenge designers to find solutions that have clear ideas behind them and can accommodate an uncertain site, since they may be built in other locations after Jade Valley,” said Dean Ma. For more than a decade, Dean Ma has been treating Jade Valley as an on-going experiment in the integration of Culture, Agriculture, and Nature, what he calls C.A.N. It has garnered much attention locally and internationally as an emerging force in agri-tourism and cultural tourism. According to Dean Ma, he aims to “define and redefine the landscape, combining nature with the man-made, while using architecture in a minimal, strategic way.” Artists and designers from around the world are welcome to build works at Jade Valley and take residence there.


Established under the auspices of USC’s School of Architecture, the American Academy in China (AAC) strives to create cross-cultural collaboration between the United States and China by promoting dialogue around design, the built environment, and the arts. The AAC engages teachers, students, scholars, practicing architects, artists, filmmakers, planners, designers, business people, government officials, and the public in interdisciplinary explorations of the needs and challenges facing China in an era of rapid change. 


For more information, contact Clifford Pearson at:

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