The visitor center welcomes to the core scenic spot of the Danxia World Natural Heritage Site in Chishui region, a popular tourist attraction characterized by a unique red rock landscape, created by reddish accumulation of sandstone. Chishui Danxia landform has been recognized World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010.
The center includes the basic facilities for tourists and is located at the very entrance of the scenic area, in a V-shaped canyon, 6m width at its narrowest point. The valley is surrounded by a stunning landscape: bright red cliffs, peaks and streams on the North and a red Danxia stone arch-shaped cave facing West. The natural cave introduces visitors to the spectacular Danxia landscape, where locals used to offer sacrifices to heaven and earth and worship Buddha. The system of steps and the building shape aim to highlight the ritual importance of the site.
The building on the southern side is composed by a group of seven little stone boxes, which are characterized by a rainwater collecting system, light capture system and tree courtyards. The seven small stone boxes (four are 14.3sqm and three are 37sqm) include facilities like tourist reception hall, exhibition hall and tea hall, where local spring water is used to prepare the tea. All around the seven stone boxes architects designed a flexible recreational space, corresponding to the different environments (water courtyard, colored light courtyard and tree courtyard). The project aims to abstract the characteristic features of the site, creating a ritual space: the forest is symbolized by a dense assembly of stone pillars, while the relationship with water is brought in the project by a rainwater collection system. The water flows into the courtyards’ pools, covered by red and yellow light, through the roof drain gully, and then then pools overflow into the ground bifurcated canal system, to form a set of natural rainwater landscape system.
The building design is sensitive to the characteristics of the landscape and the local red stone makes it completely embedded into the surroundings: the base slope is treated as a continuous folding surface. Materials come from river flooding: the project is located at the base of a mountain, from which the top originates a river. When torrential floods erupt, various sizes of Danxia stones are transported downstream by the river and collected by workers. Danxia stones are sandstones characterized by high-porosity and are extremely easy to cut, perfectly suitable for local traditional mortar masonry works.
For this project stones have been cut in four different sizes, according to their function:
Ground: crushed stone aggregate concrete + pine template (30 x 60 x 2 cm)
Steps: large blocks (60/90 x 30 x 15 cm)
Pier: middle blocks (24 x 12 x 6 cm)
Roof: sheets (60 x 30 x 2.5cm)