The project is located in Fengwu Village, Biyang Town, Yixian County, Huangshan City. As the most well-preserved area of traditional villages in southern Anhui, Yixian County boasts rich natural landscapes and cultural heritage, including renowned ancient villages like Xidi and Hongcun. However, compared to other culturally famous villages in Yixian County, despite the picturesque rural scenery of Fengwu Village, the preservation of ancient buildings is limited. It faces common challenges that many ordinary villages encounter, such as population outflow, aging demographics, insufficient public facilities, and a lack of cultural activities.
How can design empower this ordinary village? In 2023, we initiated the rural revitalization charity project " Fengwu JI." Aimed at approaching the endeavor from an international perspective and a focus on local characteristics, the project uses space as a medium, harnessing the collective efforts of local villagers and various sectors of society. Through methods like micro-renewal and the construction of rural culture, the project seeks to enhance the richness and happiness of the local residents' lives, revitalizing the rural community. "The Covered Bridge on Aqueduct" is one of the sub-projects within this initiative.
The project is located along the old water channel in the northern part of the village, constructed in the 1960s for irrigation, drawing water from the mountains to cultivate fields. Today, it stands abandoned, with a well-preserved U-shaped concrete aqueduct spanning the Fengxi River in the village. The surroundings of the aqueduct are naturally wild and lush. Adjacent to the southwest side is an old metasequoia tree, which is the highest point and "fengshui tree" of the village. The old artificial aqueduct and the natural metasequoia tree engage in a delightful dialogue, creating a unique genius loci.
In the initial design phase, we conducted surveys with villagers, and “memory’ was the most frequently mentioned word. These memories included recollections of the collective construction of the old water channel, nostalgia for collective agricultural production, and fond memories of playing hide-and-seek around the channel during childhood. These are deeply engraved in the hearts of every villager in Fengwu Village. Additionally, during the interviews, villagers commonly expressed the need for a space to eat and seek shade during the summer. The Fengxi River, spanning the village, provides a pleasant and cool environment along its banks, making it an excellent public space for community life. However, the existing concrete bridge in the village serves only a transportation function, lacking ventilation, sunshade, and resting spaces. Therefore, considering the villagers' needs, we decided to transform this aqueduct spanning the Fengxi River into a comfortable public covered bridge for daily use.
To cherish the collective memory of the village, we decided to preserve the original aqueduct, not only maintaining its original structure but also keeping the traces of time imprinted on its surface, including the perennial moss and vegetation. All these elements are considered part of the collective memory and are fully preserved. On the body of the old aqueduct, we attached a lightweight wooden bridge body. Like new vines on an old trunk, the new covered bridge reawakens the life of the old infrastructure. The use of wood not only pays homage to the local tradition of Huizhou architecture but also enhances the intimacy between the new infrastructure and the villagers. At the same time, the lightweight structure reduces the load of the bridge, ensuring the structural safety of the old aqueduct to the maximum extent.
In terms of material selection, the "Covered Bridge on Aqueduct" utilizes prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT). As a new material, CLT offers advantages such as uniform stress distribution, high strength-to-weight ratio, wood conservation, and environmental friendliness. The introduction of this new material injects fresh vitality into the ancient village. The bridge structure, after design, consists of 19 small cross-sectional interlocking units, with a unit spacing of 1.25 meters, forming a ribbed system intertwined with the old aqueduct. Each structural unit is composed of two independent X-shaped columns that support their respective roofs. The two roofs with different slopes form an open gap between them, enhancing air circulation, optimizing the bridge's ventilation effect, and providing instantaneous wind relief, contributing to overall structural safety. The non-structural components of the bridge are made of locally sourced cedar wood, adapting to the local rural scene.
The roof employs lightweight corrugated panels, delicately resting on the wooden structure. The gray-white matte aluminum alloy material, through moderate reflection, integrates with the surrounding environment, mitigating the visual mass of the bridge. On both sides inside the bridge, there are seats and two rows of reclining chairs, providing villagers with different options for resting and enjoying the view. Additionally, they act as natural "protective barriers," ensuring safety during use.
In terms of construction, all components of the “Covered Bridge on Aqueduct" can be lifted by hand, avoiding the need for large construction tools, thereby maximizing the preservation of the village's existing environment. All joints between wooden components are connected with bolts for easy on-site assembly. Furthermore, the fixing methods for the benches are integrated with the structural requirements of the X-shaped columns, making the furniture an integral part of the overall stability.
In the site design, the stone-built water channels at both ends serve as the entrance and exit of the bridge, connecting to the village roads. The transition from delivering water to foot traffic turns the process of entering the corridor into an experience of a rich history, as people touch the moss-covered stones and feel the weight of time. The paving stones at the entrance and exit are collected from the Fengxi River. Eroded by the constant flow of water down the mountains and transported to Fengwu Village, these natural stones now become a part of this new infrastructure, integrating into villagers’ community life.
Upon completion, the bridge, like newly grown vines, gently intertwines around the weathered body of the old aqueduct. It serves as a respectful tribute and a reminder of a specific history in the village. It also provides a nurturing and gathering space for the village's future, injecting vitality and vigor into the public life of Fengwu Village.