design: Haobo Wei, Jingsong Xie, Minghua Ou graphic: Martina Muratori photos: Haobo Wei, Martina Muratori (Courtesy of West-line studio)
A solitary rough concrete monument rises from destruction to let people remember a past battle
The Huangpi Dong combat site (黄陂洞红军战斗遗址), located in Tiantai Town, 12km from Chishui City,is a well renowned “red tourism” spot in south-west China. At the very top of the mountain, reachable by a steep route through a bamboo forest, the concrete monument stands surrounded by a stunning view.
The memorial site is created by a succession of three different 'enclosed' spaces, which create a quiet and meditative atmosphere. A long narrow ramp, characterized by a U-shaped section, cuts the central area. The ramp's floor is made by a bloody shiny concrete, where shadows get deep and endless. The circular half-closed space around the tower is built on a lower and concave floor level. First the ramp, which breaks into the circle, and then this round lower space introduce the main element, the tower, which stands solitary at the top of the mountain. It is originated by a folded concrete movement, which creates a sharp and iconic light well once inside.
cast-in-concrete Due to the project’s location in a remote mountainous area, a low budget of just 400.000¥ (50.000€) and local workers' lack of experience, architects opted for self-compacting concrete which would lower manufacturing costs. This choice helped overcome the following issues: - difficult transportation - high temperatures and high humidity (corrosion-discoloration-mildew) - finding materials in the local area - maintenance problems
All the walls and the geometrical elements are made of cast-in-place concrete (wood quarterdeck dimensions : 2.4m x 1.2m). Low cost materials and poor construction skills resulted in several damages during the quarterdecks opening, like scars and pulling marks. All these different level of defects were deliberate results and emphasize the rough, harsh and lonely atmosphere of the memorial. The paving is also composed with a mixture of concrete pieces, made from Chishui local grit-stone (sandstone) infiltrated with red iron powder (single unit dimensions: 24cm x12cm x6cm).
Every year, during the Tomb Sweeping Day (Qingming Festival), members of the Chishui Municipal Committee meet at the Huangpi Dong Memorial to honor the Qingming ceremony. Walking around the monument is a way to show their respect, commemorating the lives of the soldiers. In the square they also stop to have lectures and retrace the historic battle, surrounded by iconic shapes, bloody concrete, sharp shadows and by the unique view from the top of the mountain.