The project of Vale of Springs renovates the sunken plaza next to a modernist library in Chung-Yuan Christian University built in the early 1960s. The pleasant walk on the promenade beneath the canopy of the eight large banyan trees graces the daily life of faculty and students. A bosque of poinciana marked the ground floor entrance of the library, memorializing the graduation season with its flamboyant blossom. Nevertheless, the damaged concrete terrace can no longer hold up the overgrown roots and water accumulated on the lawn due to its lower topography after decades of usage.
Pervious concrete pavement and graves on the promenade and Corten steel seatings construct a transitory boundary of the banyan tree promenade. The new ramps incorporated with the steps with vegetations of native grasses signals the south-west entrance of the plaza. Upon entering, a curved “slice” on the ground greets the visitors while functioning as seating, too. The purposeful change of grade reveals the man-made topography of the sunken plaza. The circular granite surface anchored the space. Marking the northern boundary of the site, the strip of raised grassland with steel walls platform functioned as the performance platform. To the west, the sound of water flowing through the surface of the Corten steel wall and dripping on the gutter further screens the place from the surrounding noises. A diagonal path across the lawn leads to the southeast corner of the campus, where the new shelter with foldings planes reflects the activities on the ground.
The team of designers worked closely with the plant consultant and contractors about drainage and rainwater storage. While the buried bamboo pipes and soil mixed with coconut coir ensure the porousness of the ground, underground rainwater bricks beneath the lawn field can hold up to 180 tons of stormwater. Native grasses are planted on the surfaces of the promenade and the ground-floor entrance. The concrete pavement around the poinciana grove was demolished to make way for the new soil and water drainage treatment, where bamboo pipes facilitate the flow of water down below. The installation of girders further protects the topsoil underneath the brick pavement.
In addition to the practical issues of planting and drainage, the renovation focuses on the materiality of the surface through the use of Corten steel, pervious concrete pavement, metal grates. The weathering of the steel adopts the passage of time as the surface of rust protects further damage. The pervious concrete pavement facilitates the social use of the place in festivals as well as informal sports grounds. The gravel surface of the diagonal path softens the functionality of crossing the plaza. The overall design is a sensitive dialogue to the original design of the eminent female architect Wang Chiu-Hwa. It also celebrates the modernist campus with imaginative materiality that reveals traces of time.
Project location: No. 200, Zhongbei Rd., Zhongli Dist., Taoyuan City, Taiwan