Kunming is often referred to by another name, especially among locals. Besides its renowned status as a vibrant historical and cultural city in the Yunnan province of China, it is also known as the spring city. However the strong associations with its past and its distinctive cultural characteristics, have not stopped this unique ancient city embracing a modernist vibe and a strong humanist spirit.
Junfa Cultural City was conceived as a celebration of the ‘spring city’ and a landmark for Kunming, providing a community hub for its surrounding neighbourhoods. While local culture and heritage play a part in its architecture and planning, it is the principles of creative place-making and community development that drive its design. What’s more, the city’s neighbourhood retail amenities begged for rebuilding in order to meet the daily needs of the community, while providing a much needed destination and platform for human interaction, and a place that people in Kunming can be proud of.
The low-rise, open-lane driven town centre complex is a striking blueprint for how best to blend the concepts of conservation and revitalisation. The site itself incorporates three historic buildings, one of which housed the former “Society of Chinese Architecture” during the Sino Japanese war when it was part of the Southwest Associated University. The preservation of these structures and their integration within the overall masterplan is one of the many successful aspects of this project, and a sensitive response to mixing old and new. The master planning strategy revolves around three axes: the “Historical” axis contains the stories and history of the three heritage buildings; the “Nature” axis is a continuation of the existing green spine; whereas the “Lifestyle” axis fulfils the needs of those who live in the neighbourhood. The intersection and coexistence of the three axes consequently conjure up a radically new spectrum of lifestyle and retail experiences, which also enables huge leasing opportunities and operational resilience for the developer.
The three heritage courtyard buildings are woven into the project seamlessly, each repositioned with a new function. The former “Society of Chinese Architecture” will be curated and converted into a multi-purpose memorial space for holding exhibitions and educational workshops; the ancestral hall situated to the west will showcase local culture, traditional handcrafts and gastronomic dining, while the courtyard residence to the east will house more food and refreshment related outlets, a boutique hotel as well as a diverse range of events. From an architectural standpoint, the intention is to avoid direct replication of vernacular characteristics, yet embrace the local context in terms of climate, materials, customs and habits. The architectural details and elements of Kunming’s traditional “seal-shaped house” and “corner shop” are adapted, distilled and reinvented with a modern twist, in keeping with the current architectural language. Various roof and overhang forms are juxtaposed to create a dynamic skyline and the result is a well-articulated, proportioned townscape and well-tempered environment that promote a vibrant street life.
Junfa Cultural City’s success lies, not only in creating an enriched social and cultural experience using sensitively imagined contemporary architectural and spatial forms, but in its goal to better serve local residents with real city and authentic public realm and become a true heart and soul of the neighbourhood, not forgetting its exemplary role in ensuring a more sustainable, liveable and diversified community for future generations.