Sky Courts

Sky Courts Exhibition Hall, located in the International Intangible Culture Park in Chengdu China, takes its inspiration from the traditional Chinese courtyard house, creating a series of internalized courtyards within one building. Broken up into multiple courtyards, the structure creates a variety of scaled open spaces inside the building that frame the sky above and the gardens within, bringing the natural world inside the building. This internalized organization of the building has both spatial as well as environmental benefits to the building.

The aggregation of courtyards within the larger building complex creates a network of multiple centers, multiple paths, and edges inside the building. The sequence through these precincts creates a series of layered spaces where one can view from one courtyard to a series of other courtyards. The center of each courtyard maintains a pure geometry, while the perimeter responds to the context to accommodate the irregular site boundary. The edges of the building conform to the angular geometry of the property line using the perimeter support rooms to accommodate the oblique geometries. The roof geometry consists of a series of inward sloping roofs. The roof profile varies to create the impression of a landscape of peaks and valleys. The alternating inclinations of the major ridge lines produce a varied roofscape in which each roof plane is a hyperbolic ruled surface. The use of the ceramic roof tile uses the gap between units as well as the fine grain of the tile, to absorb the non planar roof condition as well as allows for abundant natural light within the building. Additionally, the large thermal mass of the perimeter walls and the number of windows creates extensive cross ventilation throughout the Exhibition Hall, allowing the building to be unconditioned for most of the year. (There is no active cooling system in the building).

A concrete frame building, the perimeter walls of the structure vary in height from 11 to 15 meters. Faced with traditional grey brick, the brickwork is detailed to emphasize the oblique geometries of the building. The bricks are oriented in a consistent grain, regardless of the oblique angle of the perimeter walls. This creates a “grain” or oriented texture such that the west and east facades are smooth while all the other faces takes on a serrated texture due to the orientation of the brick. The windows and exterior doors are clustered on the various building facades to create a larger figural composition than each individual window can make in such a monolithic structure. To create larger figures for the windows while still using economical/typical window and door sizes, these apertures are packed together using facetted Corten steel ‘window surrounds.’ This enables the operable windows to have a larger presence on the elevation and play with one’s sense of scale.