Imperial Kiln Museum in Jingdezhen
Studio Zhu-Pei designs in Jingdezhen a composition of brick vaults based on the traditional forms of the ceramic kilns of the Chinese emperors.
Considered the cradle of pottery and porcelain, the city of Jingdezhen – in northeastern China’s Jiangxi province – has been tied to the ceramic industry since the 5th century, when the first craft workshops cropped up that would become the kilns of the emperors. A work of the Beiking practice of Zhu Pei, the museum is located close to the Imperial Kiln Ruins. The composition of brick vaults of varying size, curvature, and length takes inspiration from the traditional oven form, delicately merging with the remains, some of which were unearthed during construction. The concrete structures are clad with masonry walls where new bricks are combined with recycled ones salvaged from the triennial demolitions necessary for kilns to keep their thermal performance up to standard.
Reuse of bricks is ingrained in local building tradition. The museum’s arched forms continue below street level. This gives the building the flexibility to adapt to a complicated site and downscale in height with respect to the surrounding historical constructions. In turn, the way it is inserted into the terrain creates a series of intimate spaces in the interplay between inside and outside, lights and shadows. The different areas are laid out around five courtyards that vary in size and are based on different elements of matter (gold, wood, water, fire, and earth), reflecting ancient Chinese thought while establishing associations with techniques of making porcelain.