Longji Village is one of the volcanic stone villages in the north of Hainan. Located along the hill, Tongde Hall and Jiangxing Ancestral Hall were built in the Ming and Qing Dynasty in the form of Shiheyuan, featuring the lifting beam structure of timber and volcanic stone. The plaque on the front gate of Tongde Hall was inscribed by Zhang Yuesong, the advanced scholar called ”Jinshi” in the Qing Dynasty. Only a little more than a ruin, the two separate ancestral halls have nearly no roof above and only some broken walls left. They have obviously lost the high-status dignity submerged in the crowded concrete houses.
We have tried to repair it as old as before, and spent a lot time and energy on high-accuracy mapping, crafts and technology verifying and 3D restoration modeling, but the results are not as expected. The 3D restoration model presents the hard efforts of the ancestors on constructing with local materials when they just arrived on the island. The inners space was rather coarse and gloomy for the limited technique of processing big and thick lava stones and the difficulty of making openings on the envelope of masonry structure.
Will it adapt to the new village that has developed rapidly in urbanization if it is repaired as old as before？Will the limited time and budget can meet up the demands? Why not retaining the beauty of vicissitudes rather than hasty and rough repairing that may produce damages to it if we could not complete the total restoration to its original splendor? The strategy of ruins protection may be more appropriate for this project.
We are committed to the regain of the former glory of the ancient ancestral halls, the “Emeer” of the village. To crown them again as the prominent landmark in the village, an innovative cable-suspended steel-timber frame system with tall wood columns and a 965㎡glass roof are structured to connect the two relics as one.
The towering banyan trees inside the courtyard are carefully reserved climbing outside the roof, and their dreamlike reflections on the wall dance tranquilly in the sunshine.
78 wood columns form a matrix integrated with a flexible but stable steel cable structure to protect the ancestral halls, and it holds up a giant umbrella to save the relics from the rain. The design worked out a way of rebirth for low level historic relics in limited time and with limited cost.
It has been a lot of trouble that we encountered through the process. Too modern the concept was regarded, “those thought to be refurbished are left as before” said jokingly by one of our friends; it was difficult to find workers because local people consciously avoid to touch other clan’s ancestral temple, and was also difficult to find a supplier for the glass curtain wall because the project was too small while required for rather high accuracy; we kept asking people for help persuading the villagers not to cut down the biggest tree above the front gate…
Finally, after one year’s efforts, the new birth of the ancestral halls is completed. The strong contrast between the old volcanic stone walls and the newly-built steel and wood tensile space structure represents our understanding of the civilization collision of Hainan, which is developing from a traditional island to the international free trade port. It looks a modern architecture in geometric shapes faraway, while numerous details of the old delicate fragments can be found closely. It is evocative of full imagination how the ancestors sailed across the sea to this island and lived in this land.
When the night falls, the scattered lights on the ground begin to project on the glass roof at 7.30pm every day, like a starry sky reflected in the deep blue background. It turns out to be a good place for people to enjoy the cool in the semi-open air. Children’s toy cars and balls can often be seen inside. Once we saw a five-year old boy climbed up the house roof at the foot of the ancestral hall, “Look, this is our ancestral temple!” , and proudly introduced this old and modern architecture to his little sister.