Week 5 in Hangzhou – Fascinating old buildings

First of all, there’s a trip planned by IDI this wed to 融 Design Library which is 1-hour-drive away from ZJU. At first we didn’t really expect much, like really, it’s just a library from name and the max it could possibly go should be like SUTD’s material library. And it proves us wrong.

This Library is located in a small and rather rural village, and is renovated from a old Community Centre that is abandoned as more and more young people left the village for work. Preserving the original structure of the whole building, this old CC is soon given a new face as Designers’ Library. Not very off from what we thought, it is a material library, but more specifically, preserving old Chinese handicraft skills. It all started off when the three designers came together and try to bring old Chinese paper umbrella back to the society but failed due to various circumstances, they decided to preserve the skill rather than the product itself. So from paper umbrella, they made paper chair. There were also many more cases of innovation that designers from all over the world came up with from coming to this library and discover more of other old handcraft skills. The whole library just give a very calming and chill feeling to us and we just don’t want to leave this space.

Heading on further was two small structures that is made with mud (like houses in the past as well). Having the structure body covered with mud helps to keep the interior temperature cool in summer and warm in winter. Although mud sounds like a rather messy material to work with, the whole building gives a very clean and clear feel. One of the building even has tatami on top!!! Just feels damn great to lie down there and enjoy the peace. It’s really not until the TA call for leaving that we left the place with much reluctance.


After the fruitful day to 融 Design Library, we welcomed our second theme trip. On this great Thursday with nice weather to travel, we head down to 烏鎮 a water village. It’s personally my second time here but it’s still enjoyable. It’s separated into two sides and we started off with the east side.

The east brunch of 烏鎮 is  really crowded which ruined the ancient feel a little. Nonetheless it’s still interesting to see how these old buildings were constructed upon water. Most are old-looking in and out, but we came across this one that has super fancy interior design inside it just feels like entering another world from 烏鎮! There were also some interesting museums introducing us how cloths were dyed with patterns on top, how the famous 三白酒 is made, and this funny person who became the one with greatest coin collection from a metal molder. Another fun fact is that people in the past doesn’t seem to be very tall as well, as we went to this ancient bed museum and all the beds has max length of about 1.9m LOL! And time really past very fast when you are having fun, so it’s about lunch time and we head out for another great meal!

Eating is always one of the greatest enjoyment in life and here we have like 12 dishes for 6 people ._. really really a lot but really great as well. Some of the more rare ones include fried ice cream 炸冰淇淋, fried rice cracker 鍋巴, and steamed rice cake 小米糕. Can’t describe but just a really satisfying meal which cost only RMB50 per person.

Moving on to the west brunch, we first saw the grand opera theatre which combines both old and modern design together, then head to the Muxin Art Museum for further exploration. This museum has a very simple looking exterior and sets upon water. The building made use of light and water to create a very calming atmosphere and it’s really interesting to see all the artworks inside as they are all so tiny yet detailed.

Came out from the art museum, we move on to the village itself. In general, west side is more modern looking and spacious than east side. Although it’s still an old town, but was built more meant to attract tourist and photographers, so we can see a lot of good photo-taking spots rather than livelihood of villagers themselves. There was also this silk museum which demonstrate the full process of both modern (late 1900s) and old ways of extracting silk from the cocoon to make the fabrics. To be honest it looks a little bit disgusting…but still cool in some sense. We also walked pass by a 月老廟 where we saw tones of praying board tied to the trees and walls. And this concludes our theme trip of the week.

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