Yuntai Ice Chrysanthemum Display Shelves by LUO studio

2021 opens a new chapter of China’s Rural Revitalization Initiative. As industries take the lead in rural revitalization, quality agricultural products and better ways of displaying them are essential. The Yuntai Ice Chrysanthemum Industry Park in the village needed an exhibition space to display its ice chrysanthemum (a species of medicinal chrysanthemum) products, and the operator thought that what products display needed was just a place with a moderate size.

Therefore, they commissioned a familiar steel structure manufacturer to construct a space with portal steel frames at a very fast speed, for serving product display and livestreaming selling activities. Such portal steel frames replicated the structures of other plants in the industry park. The operator thought that the space was ready for use once furniture pieces were set in. Exhibition is a crucial step for advertising and marketing.

The industrial park’s current selling channels mainly include tour groups, franchisees and livestreaming marketing. No matter in which way, a characteristic space for showcasing products is indispensable. A space integrating exhibition function with the unique features of products can provide people with a more tangible experience, so as to communicate products more effectively, stimulate consumption and promote the development of the industry.

Low cost realized by lightweight & common materials and techniques
Capital for industries in rural regions is very precious, as various factors could affect production and marketing, and furthermore cause income losses. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, sales of local ice chrysanthemum products from tour groups have been interrupted significantly, and the ice chrysanthemum plantation zone in the village suffered severe production decrease because of floods this year.

Taking every aspect into account, LUO studio tried to create an effective display setting in the existing space at a minimum cost, which was the key design principle. To this end, affordable and conveniently available materials, as well as simple techniques (which didn’t require special equipment or experienced craftsmen) easily accessible to local villagers were applied.

After a comprehensive analysis, LUO studio chose a type of thin wooden panels featuring a high lumber recovery rate as main construction materials. Manufactured by a local timber factory, the panels have a sectional dimension of 60mm*10mm, and can be easily relocated and assembled by hand. Through bending the thin timber panels properly and then making them connected to the nodes by making use of the existing portal steel frames, a natural and vernacular spatial atmosphere was generated.

Straight steel structure and curved thin panels, and timber elements as furnishings
The bending of thin panels obtains stress that enhances structural stability. Each wooden panel elements with a different curvature is an “arched” stress unit. The “arched” units anchor each other, with the bottom ends reaching the display stands. Therefore, the physical structure of these elements is also the form of force transmission. It is a structural element and also a functional component of display furniture. The modulus of display shelves fits into the varied sizes of agricultural products, and the structural components function as display shelves as well.

The timber elements are extended and “suspended” under the portal steel frames, producing a natural atmosphere in the existing space. The short section of each single portal steel frame is 15m in length and 6.5m in height. Through careful evaluation on the sectional scale, three sets of exhibition shelves are set underneath the steel frames, and four passages are arranged (each about 3.2m in net width) to make sure that in no event will the place be overcrowded.

Drawing deviations “rectified” during on-site construction
Before the design drawings were completed, continuous bending tests had been performed on single thin timber panels, and in this way the design team obtained relevant technical parameters regarding curvature. However, during the construction process, due to many superimpositions of bar elements, varied curvature from different sections of the display system, and uneven scab distribution of different batches of timer materials, there were deviations between the design drawings and actual execution.

To proceed with the construction more effectively and ensure the maximum use of common materials, the design team decided to take the drawings as a reference for controlling the shape and the way of organizing structures, and meanwhile asked workers to carry out repeated on-site tests so as to obtain the final and the most appropriate curvature of each section of the whole wooden system. Then, the results were reviewed and incorporated into the design drawings, as a basis for deducing and modifying other material components and connecting nodes.

From industrial “steel structures” to handmade “wood-woven shelves”
The existing industrial-style steel-structure space was cool and mechanical, which is obviously contrary to the ideas of ecology, green and naturalness that the agricultural products are intended to convey. Considering the fact, thin wooden panels were selected to construct the display setting, and were presented in a way of simulating rural hand weaving craft (agricultural tools).

The “wood-woven” display shelves reveal a handmade feeling and a diversity differentiated from industrial manufacturing, and convey the warmth of each piece of ice chrysanthemum, which is picked, sorted, dried and baked by villagers manually. Architecture for supporting rural industries, on the one hand, has something in common with industrial buildings, as both need to consider the efficiency of production process. On the other hand, it is different from industrial buildings as it needs to take into account of the countryside context.

  • Location: Yuntai Ice Chrysanthemum Industry Park, Houyanmen Village, Huanfeng Town, China
  • Architect: LUO studio
  • Designers: Luo Yujie, Wang Beilei, Huang Shangwan, Zhang Chen
  • Developer: Government of Huanfeng Town, Xiuwu County, Henan Province
  • Construction: Jiaozuo Yuanbo Architectural Engineering Co., Ltd
  • Client: Jiaozuo Yuntai Agricultural Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Total exhibition area: 602 square meters
  • Main display shelf size: 12m (length), 14.1m (width), 5.3m (height)
  • Completion time: November 30, 2021
  • Photographs: Jin Weiqi, Courtesy of LUO studio