Interior Space Design & Renewal for Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum
- Xihe Village Great Bay, Xinyang, China
- Villager Cooperative of Xihe Village
- He Wei, Zhao Zhuoran, Chen Long, Li Xinglu, Wang Lingzhe, Hua Xiaoying, Ye Yuxin
A New Departure to Continue Cooperation
Interior Space Design & Renewal for Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum
In April 2019, five years after the initial design project, the same group of designer returned to Xihe village to launch an interior space upgrading project for Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum. The upgrading project focuses on converting the museum into a multi-functional institution that provides parenting activities, field education, tea seed oil production, and agricultural product sales, based on the original exhibition design.
On 1 August 2013, a nonprofit planning and design campaign, entitled “Dream of Xinxian County, Dream of Heroes”, was officially started in Xinxian county, Xinyang city, Henan province. It was this public welfare design event that brought Xihe Village a huge turnaround and also enabled the design team to associate with Xihe Village.
Xinxian county locates in the old revolutionary base area of the Dabie Mountain. It was a national-level poverty-stricken county until 2017. Xihe is a mountainous village about 30 kilometers away from the county seat. The villagers own rich natural and cultural landscapes, such as mountains and forests, historic houses built during the period from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, ancestral halls, ancient trees, rivers, rice fields and bamboo forests. However, the village suffers extremely undeveloped transportation and economy. Empty-nest families, and most permanent residents are the seniors, children, and mentally disabled adults.
In 2013, the design team launched a design project upgrade a group of granaries constructed in 1958. Through process of redesigning spaces and functions of the five buildings in the site, the team has successfully converted the 1950s Xihe Cereals and Oils into a 21st-century Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum & Village Activity Center. The new building complex includes a small museum, a characteristic restaurant, and a multi-functional village activity center. The new structure establishes not only a new public space for villages but an element to revitalize the village.
While remodeling buildings, the team planned a new industry production of tea seed oil, and designed a logo for relevant products, “Quality Oil of Xihe”. It is cross-over design attempt to integrated development of space, products and industry. As a space to exhibit tea oil products and industry, Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum host an old oil press machine. On 25 November 2014, production of tea oil in traditional way resumed after thirty years pause. The 300-year-old oil press machine was reemployed to produce tea oil, but with a modern brand name – Quality Oil of Xihe. Five years have passed with great changes taken place. The ancient village has been well designed. Tourist service facilities such as B&B and tent camping have been set. Today, Xihe has become a model village of countryside revival plan. It attracts thousands of visitors annually, and young residents have returned to the village to start up business.
Changes taking place in the village have posed new challenges and tasks on Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum. The team faces challenge to upgrade original spaces so as to enhance their effective, interactive and recreational uses and meet new needs of the village.
The redesign of interior spaces focuses on “cereals” and “oils”, in response to the name of the museum. The two spaces within the museum features the themes of “cereals” and “oils” respectively. The cereal space, with emphasis on children’s interactive experience, includes four zones that respectively respond to four seasons – sowing in Spring, growing in Summer, harvesting in Fall and storing in Winter. Space and furniture design highlight interaction, with the aim of enabling visitors, in particular child visitors, to enjoy interactive experience through touching, listening, operating and tasting, rather than simply viewing exhibits.
The “sowing in Spring” section enables visitors to touch and understand crops. It is an enclosed lecture room where children can sit together and touch crops to be sowed in spring. This interactive approach is supported with lecture teaching so that visitors can start their museum tour to understand farming activities and seasons.
The “growing in summer” section enables visitors to listen to the sound of nature and perceive how lives grow. Art installations collecting sounds into the section. Bamboo receivers in each installation enable visitors to listen to familiar natural sounds in summer, such as insect chirping and treetop rustling.
The “harvesting in autumn” section provides visitors milling experiences. A millstone collected from a farmer household is installed in the center of the exhibition space. Under the guidance of museum staff, children and their parents can work together to operate the traditional millstone to grind crops harvested in autumn, such as rice, wheat and sorghum, learning such agricultural terms as hulling and milling through DIY activities.
The “storing in winter” section is the destination of the agricultural tour. The section “parents-children collaborative workshop”, enables visitors to taste delicious food from agricultural products and make simple models of agricultural tools. Many traditional food-making skills are still practiced in Xihe today. Traditional skills allow children and their parents to enjoy chestnut cakes, dried kiwi fruits and rice cakes made by themselves, and gain knowledge about the whole process from seed sowing to food making.
Strip-shaped low tables are important elements in the museum’s interior space. The height is adjustable, functioning for children to do handwork, for pastry, or for adults to sit. These low tables can be also dissembled, moved or re-structured so as to enable different spatial divisions or variations.
The oil space has been upgraded on the foundation of the original oil press workshop. The old oil press machine is retained in the original place, whose arrangement is related to traditions. The oil press machine is made from a 300-year-old trunk. The thicker end is called the “dragon head” which must face the water source – Xihe River. The pole of the oil press sits on the opposite direction to water flow. A semi-round platform is newly added around the oil press so that visitors can experience oil press performance conveniently. The platform also enhances the domain effect of the space and the ceremonial effect of oil press performance. From perspectives of the designers, production ceremony is the most valuable countryside heritage in China.
On the other side of the space, there are few shelves selling tea oil products. In the first phase of the project conducted in 2013, the designer team planned and designed the brand name of “Quality Oil of Xihe”. Regrettably, however, villagers were not good at tea oil business at that time and the organic tea oil industry did not develop well. The new spatial upgrading project aimed at further developing the industry by integrating space design with business operation, industrial production and implementing a development strategy integrating sightseeing, museum experience and product sales.
Project name:Interior Space Design & Renewal for Xihe Cereals and Oils Museum
Location: Xihe Village Great Bay, Xin County, Xinyang City, Henan Province
Client: Villager Cooperative of Xihe Village
Principal Architect: He Wei
Designers：Zhao Zhuoran，Chen Long，Li Xinglu，Wang Lingzhe，Hua Xiaoying，Ye Yuxin
Design Period: Sep.2016-Mar.2019
Construction Period: Mar.2019-Apr.2019
Photos: Jin Weiqi
Site Area: 300 sqm.