Cultural buildings have always been a specialty of prominent Chinese architect and professor He Jingtang. The Dachang Muslim Cultural Center will no doubt become another one of his masterpieces. Located in Dachang Hui Autonomous County in Hebei province, the project was planned by the local government to be an iconic design, that would embody the unique culture of Dachang and enhance the city’s soft power.
The Dachang Hui Autonomous County is a Muslim enclave just outside of Beijing. To invigorate the local Islamic culture and improve the quality of cultural life, the local government planned and developed the Dachang Muslim Cultural Center, a modern cultural complex that integrates the functions of a theatre, an exhibition space, convention hall and community center. It serves not only as a recreational center for the city, but it will also be an important cultural site for learning about the local religion and history. In addition to the many functions of the space, this ambitious project undoubtedly has posed many challenges to the design team, because of the area’s special ethnic composition, history, and religious beliefs.
In his approach to design, He Jingtang has his own philosophy about architecture and innovation, which is typically based on the “two views”, or the holistic view and the sustainable development view, and the “three characters”, meaning the local character, cultural character and epochal character. Some of his previous award-winning work include the wrestling and badminton sporting venues built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Chinese Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo in 2010, now renamed the China Art Museum. Taking the same considered design approach, the Dachang Muslim Cultural Center is similarly destined to become another classic structure.
Based on the traditional mosque, the design of the building subtly reinterprets the spatial structures of mosques with new kinds of materials and technologies. The supporting outer arches taper into elegant curves from the bottom up, while the cambering petal-shaped arches reflected in the water look even more graceful and enchanting. The top dome is based on visual abstractions of Islamic symbols and is constructed with hundreds of petaloid shells, creatively transforming the interior space into a semi-outdoor garden, gloriously filled with sunshine, fresh air and vegetation. The Dachang Muslim Cultural Center will certainly become a sanctuary of sorts that will show people the brilliance of Islamic culture and provide its local residents with a worthy spiritual home.