Thermodynamic Materialism

Yiwu, China.

Thermodynamic Materialism is an ambitious project that includes a whole area development around a new high speed train station in the city of Yiwu, China. This city is known for housing the biggest commodity market and production plants in the world. The project integrates a vision of the town’s thermodynamics and material culture to come up with the design for the new quarter based on vernacular architecture of the region, energetic optimization and typological studies.

Contrary to the initial prompt of a huge-scale mixed-use building that integrated the high speed train station, the proposal aims to rethink the traditional Chinese courtyard house settlement - or hutong - and improve it to integrate a multiplicity of uses and optimise energy consumption. The same strategies determine all different construction scales, from urban design to building shape and material composition. By looking at weather data and the physical context, the project utilizes vernacular materials for basic passive climate control strategies as sun shading, thermal mass or natural ventilation. From the consumption point of view, it also combines different uses’ patterns to establish sustainable water and electricity cycles.

In whole, the proposal represents an effort to integrate traditional architecture with contemporary energy consumption criteria. It addresses the issue of what part vernacular architecture should take in global culture, as well as the cultivation of developing megalopolises as sustainable habitats in which independent building identities are preserved and exchanged.