Atelier Deshaus

Taoyiqiu Memorial . Lujia Town

Atelier Deshaus . photos: © schranimage

Tao Yiqiu was born into a wealthy landowning family in Xiajiaqiao Town (now known as the Xiaqiao Community of Lujia Town) of Kunshan. In his early years, he had done many beneficial things for his hometown. In 1939, he founded the first counter-Japanese armed force in Kunshan and sold his own land to support the resistance. In appreciation of Tao Yiqiu’s deeds and contributions, a memorial hall was built in his honor in Lujia Town, Kunshan. In 2020, since there would be an underground line to be built nearby, the memorial hall was planned to be relocated to Xiaqiao Community, Tao Yiqiu’s birthplace.

The new site is in a semi-enclosed area of three service buildings in the community. The lot has a narrow rectangular shape and is in a relatively messy surrounding environment. The client addresses rather simple requirements, as long as the building area does not exceed 1000 square meters and a few small exhibits as well as two sets of sculptures from the current venue can be accommodated.

The design regards the memorial hall as a place for the preservation and transmission of memory, and analyzes Tao Yiqiu’s life story based on ordinary humanity. By creating a calm and restrained atmosphere, visitors can escape from the mundane surroundings and enter a world of peace. In the quiet place, between the transition of darkness and the flow of light and shadow, focus on gazing, listening and contemplating, and quietly appreciate Tao Yiqiu’s difficult situation and difficult choices among the multiple forces in troubled times. Memorizing of the ancestors then triggers reflection on life.

Two sets of walls of different heights are designed along the perimeter of the site to moderately separate the memorial hall’s area from the surroundings and to exclude the service buildings from the visitors’ sight. The interior area of the memorial hall is divided into five main themed exhibition spaces, front yard, main courtyard, front hall, exhibition hall and the statue courtyard. These are linked into a sequence from west to east along the depth the site, incrementally separating from the surrounding daily scenes.

The visiting path of the memorial hall reciprocates in an S-shape, winding around the main axis of the site, elongating the visit circulation within a limited area. Therefore, the design can continuously transform the visual focus of each themed space through the turns of the path, and visitors can also perceive the theme space from multiple angles, both forward and diagonally. The visual exits of each theme space establish visual paths separated from the visiting paths between different visual focuses. In this way, the visitor’s overall perception of the memorial hall is a diachronic and synchronic superposition of spatial and visual experiences.

The design utilizes the depth of the site to emphasize the horizontality and establish the overall visual tranquility of the memorial hall. It also relies on the establishment and elimination of the frontage and symmetry of the building, the highlighting of the sense of volume and the elimination of the sense of heaviness, the amplification and compression of the architectural scale, and the tension between the centripetality and discreteness of the themed space, to demonstrate how the memorial hall implies flow and slight changes in its basic formality, and contains lightness and transparency in its moderate sublimity.

The building has thus been expanded from a single indoor exhibition hall full of missionary meaning in the old venue to a quiet place that includes projections to the sky and grassy slopes and is slightly transcendent. While allowing visitors to commemorate the ancestors, it can also be used as a meditation garden for the Xiaqiao Community. As a result, the Tao Yiqiu Memorial Hall has transformed from a building that demands to be gazed at, to a place that allows viewers to gaze into their own hearts.

Project name: Taoyiqiu Memorial
Project location: Lujia Town, Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province, China
Gross floor area: 563.07sqm
Design period: 2020.12-2023.03
Completion: 2023.05
Architectural design, Interior design, Landscape design: Atelier Deshaus
Structure and M&E: AND Office, Tongji Architectural Design (Group) Co., Ltd.
Principal architects: Chen Yifeng, Ma Danhong
Design team: Chen Yifeng, Ma Danhong, Liang Jun, Du Shangfang (Archtecture)
Zhang Zhun, Chen Xuejian (Structure)
Zhao Shiguang, Shi You, Jiang Haoqing, Wang Chenlu, Lu Hong (M&E)
Client: Government of Lujia Town, Kunshan City