Kaihui Exchange

Location: Changsha, Hunan Province, China

Program: Exhibition, Business, Tourism Center

The Kaihui Exchange will house resources for environmental, agricultural, tourism, and business interests in Kaihui Township and the nearby metropolis of Changsha.

Kaihui is a small agrarian town outside Changsha, with a population of 19,500. Changsha, designated an “economically advanced” city by the Chinese government, has a population of seven million. The aim of this project is to exploit urban/rural ties of benefit to the local agricultural economy and to preserve Kaihui’s remarkably beautiful and productive landscape (the area is covered with thriving tea and flower plantations).

The client approached us with an unusual ambition: her aim was to build a structure housing uses that were, as yet, unknown to her. Our response was to develop a “pre-programmatic” approach to the design of spaces — a means of catalyzing possible uses without predetermining what, exactly, might happen in these spaces. We began with the most elemental of plan types: a perfect square, a self-conscious use of modernism’s “universal space.” We then added a set of notched terraces and courtyards that collectively modulate the floor plates, creating an array of rooms of varying sizes and proportions.

The result is a collection of spaces and relationships that suggest a range of future use scenarios…not as neutral spaces but as partial rooms and implied organizations.



Awards, Publications, Exhibitions

Exhibited in "Chicagoisms," Art Institute, Chicago, 2014

Texas Society of Architects "Studio Award"

Texas Architect, November/October 2015

WW Project Team

Principals: Ron Witte and Sarah Whiting

Project Manager: Juncheng Yang

Design Team: Dan Baklik, Sam Biroscak, Mary Casper, Austin Jarvis, Rasem Kamal, Libo Li, Riley Neal, Renee Reder, Weijia Song, Geoffrey Sorrell, Sam Tannenbaum, Liang Wang, Peter Di Yi

Associate Architect

Hunan Forever Architects, Changsha, China