In September 2009, Nanjing University's Xianlin Campus was completed and inaugurated. Over the past 14 years, the campus has undergone continuous improvements. The construction of Yongman Pavilion marked the final phase of development in this evolving campus. With the primary functional structures of the university already in place, the challenge was to create a new campus building that would leave a lasting impression on students.
The choice between courtyard spaces and the tangible form's presence or absence is the primary consideration in the initial architectural design selection. Whether to continue with the prevalent courtyard-style architectural prototype in the Xianlin Campus construction became the foremost question when embarking on the design of Yongman Pavilion.
While the spatial experience of Jiangnan-style gardens served as an important design reference due to the campus's location, the enclosed nature resulting from wall enclosures was not suitable for this site. The dynamic volumes of white buildings on Greece's Santorini island suggested a different approach—integrating a rich network of pathways while preserving architectural openness. From this emerged the idea of utilizing dynamic forms as a means of incorporating the Jiangnan garden touring experience while maintaining architectural openness.
Yongman Pavilion is situated on the land that lies between the Humanities and Life Sciences clusters, at the convergence of an east-west dumbbell-shaped terrain. The presence of two small hills to the north and south determines the architectural necessity of connecting in the east-west direction while ensuring a harmonious integration with the topographical features in the north-south direction and the continuity of greenery. Yongman Pavilion departs from the courtyard enclosure style used in the already established east and west clusters, which poses a risk to maintaining the original unified planning. Roaming between tangible structures and courtyard spaces, there is a deliberate effort to create a blurred relationship between the tangible and the intangible, serving as a clear endeavor to fuse and harmonize the two clusters of the east and west.
The campus life forms a closed loop, shuttling between the residential and academic clusters, providing students with a unique daily scenery during their campus life. Lacking the diverse urban experiences of commuting to and from school, the experience of campus circulation becomes particularly important for students. As an inevitable passage, Yongman Pavilion inherently faces the choice between congestion and smooth flow. The idea of a three-dimensional interweaving of pedestrian flow emerges from this context, with three different levels of circulation overlaid: ground-level skywalks, sloping roofs, and pathways along the mountainside.
In the absence of a prominent front façade, space takes the place of the building's primary image. The flow of pathways naturally creates meandering spatial experiences through the cutting of forms, coinciding with the impression of dynamic clustered spaces. Both are consciously orchestrated yet unintentionally shaped spatial forms and experiences. Memories of a trip to the Greek island of Santorini and wandering through artificial rockeries in Suzhou's classical gardens merge in this moment.
A memorable campus necessitates distinctive spaces. Campus life in memory is often associated with open green fields or stories under the shade of a tree. Spaces calculated for volume and area are utilized for practical functional needs, while the voids, including the rooftops, side courtyards, and elevated levels, serve as settings for scenes. Leisurely moments lying on the grass may involve contemplation of life or serve as an opportunity to tackle academic challenges. Learning and life extend beyond the confines of the classroom; they also encompass the campus.
Cement fiberboard is chosen to embody the design concept of "two mountain stones" while simultaneously meeting environmental construction requirements. The cement fiberboard panels are 4.6 meters in length, featuring a large size that minimizes joints and highlights the material's texture. The curtain wall design focuses on the structural joints, which endure temperature fluctuations throughout the seasons and the impact of humidity. The variations in joint width are subtle.
The design of Yongman Pavilion revisits fundamental architectural concepts while reinterpreting campus architecture. Unlike the experiences of primary and secondary students commuting from home to school, the university campus forms an isolated learning and living environment within the city. Yongman Pavilion seeks to provide an unobtrusive yet intentionally crafted experience within the relatively short intra-campus circulation, silently becoming a memory of youth for the students of Nanjing University. One building, one transient landscape.