09/25/17 Room For A View: USC Students & AAC Build a Pavilion outside of Xi’an
photo: Zhang Junhui
Toiling in the hot sun and sometimes late into the evening, a group of students from USC and the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology (XUAT) built a wood pavilion designed by USC professor Geoffrey von Oeyen on public land overlooking a vineyard in Lantian, outside of Xi’an. Commissioned by USC’s American Academy in China and former School of Architecture dean Qingyun Ma for a site near his Jade Valley Winery, the 190-square-foot structure—dubbed a “Napavilion”—provides a shaded place to rest and enjoy panoramic views of vine-planted hills, a lush valley, and dramatic mountains. The pavilion uses dimensional lumber assembled into 97 sectional frames to create a tubular enclosure that starts as a triangle and morphs into a trapezoid. Visitors enter through a tight triangular threshold and move toward a large trapezoidal opening framing a grand vista of the rolling landscape. “The Napavilion is an intimate yet expansive geometric project designed as an optical device for framing the landscape of rural Lantian,” said von Oeyen. He described how the design of “the ruled surfaces of the symmetrical walls, constructed of sanded dimensional lumber, change in angle, density, and pattern, allowing for varied daylight conditions, visual screening, wind baffling, and degrees of enclosure for standing, sitting, or napping.” The stepped roof is covered, yet the level floor joists above the ground remain open to below, allowing cool breezes to flow inside and natural grasses to grow from below. “Formally, the pavilion’s scale, orientation, proximity to the hillside, and spectrum of visual transparency both register— and heighten an awareness of— the bucolic site conditions,” explained von Oeyen. The 15 students—supplemented by two carpenters and about half a dozen local workers—spent almost two weeks building the pavilion in July. The students measured, cut, sanded, and assembled the wood pieces into frames that were fastened together into 12 prefabricated “chunks,” which were then transported to the site on a truck and craned into place. The pavilion sits on concrete columns supporting a pair of wood beams, the columns recalling the slender concrete trellis posts in the surrounding vineyard. Jutting out from its sloping site, the structure seems to float above the landscape. Rongrong Hu, a professor at XUAT, provided academic support and coordination with the local authorities during construction. Wendong Wang, an architecture professor from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beiijing and a USC alumnus, assisted von Oeyen during the construction and produced a drone-based video of the construction process. USC student Jian Chen, who was working during the summer for MADA s.p.a.m., Ma’s architecture firm, provided skilled help with project coordination and construction this summer, having assisted von Oeyen with the initial site and project planning last summer. Local contractors Yujie Fan and Lipeng Wang supervised the professional grading, foundation, and crane-assembly subcontractors sponsored by Jade Valley Wine & Resort. “This was the first time our summer program in China has done a design-build project,” said Clifford Pearson, director of the AAC, who coordinated the academic collaboration between USC, XUAT, and Jade Valley. “It was a grueling experience, but I think the students got a lot out of it,” added Pearson. “Seeing the completed pavilion gracing the landscape, they were really proud of what they had accomplished.” The USC students working on the pavilion were: Ruipeng Chen, Ruixin Cui, Albert Tak-Ling Hong, Ruixue Ji, Hanjun Jia, Danyang Liu, Jingjing Liu, Xueqing Liu, Chun Lung Sun, Qi Wang, Xianyuan Wu, Yifan Zhang, and Siyu Zhuang. The XUAT students were: Bingbing Wang, Jingyi Wang, and Jian Zhang.