White Crane Lake in Jiangxi Province, China, covers an area of 10km² and boasts panoramic views of the horizon, bamboo forests on its shores, calm waters and a vast blue sky above, creating a tranquil and poetic atmosphere for visitors. 

 The challenge for the designers was placing a stylistically modern cultural building, aimed at increasing tourism, in a natural environment defined by its quiet ambience. It had a multitude of functional requirements to fulfil, while balancing the need to elegantly coexist with a landscape of forests, mountains and the lake itself. 

 Design concept 

For architect Jin’ang Yang, a simple solution would have been to take the materials and forms of the existing local houses in Jiangxi, essentially reinterpreting traditional architecture with a modern approach. However, it was quickly acknowledged that the appearance of a new, large-scale traditional Chinese-style building on the water’s edge would be visually disturbing and incongruous with the nature surrounding it.  

The new building would instead accentuate the natural qualities and atmosphere of the site of White Crane Lake itself. 

A comprehensive lighting system was integrated into the building’s outer skin.

 The visitor centre is located on a tidal flat, surrounded by the lake on the north, south and west sides of the site, with an extensive bamboo forest to the east. As the sun rises in the early morning, the lake is shrouded in dense clouds and mist, which gently disperse in the surrounding forests. Visitors walking through the forest at this time of the day have the impression of simultaneously walking through trees and clouds, high in the sky. 

 In response to these phenomena, the architect proposed the design concept of “Bamboo clouds by the water”, as a means of evoking this early morning atmosphere and integrating the four site elements of water, shore, bamboo and cloud. Adopting a decentralised layout effectively reduced the perceived visual scale of the building. Incorporating rounded forms and curves, softens its relationship with its surroundings and gives the impression of flow and movement, unfolding like a traditional Chinese scroll painting on the lake.  

A comprehensive lighting system was integrated into the building’s outer skin.

 Bamboo skin 

 A transparent, undulating glass volume with a second layer of “bamboo skin” appears to float over the glass volume, analogous to a gentle cloud of bamboo by the water. Formally, it integrates the separate building masses, giving the building a sense of fluidity, continuity and integration with nature. 

 The form of the woven “bamboo skin” was developed according to an analytical design process – first, the defining line of the building’s envelope was established according to programmatic and formal considerations. Following this, secondary points along the envelope were chosen as a basis for the undulations of the skin, according to the building’s functions and the view of the landscape at each point – resulting in the semblance of a floating bamboo cloud from the exterior and ensuring the best possible views from the interior public spaces. 

Form and texture 

After considering horizontal and vertical grid-like versions of the skin, as well as an option of a series of interconnected pyramidal forms, many computer analyses were made using Grasshopper software. In the end, the lightest option was chosen for its clear, translucent quality and practical feasibility as a “woven” texture for the building’s skin. 

 Extensive consultations were made with both the client and suppliers, and significant on-site testing was done to ensure durability and the desired visual and tactile effect. The special surface-treated metal alloy chosen provides a robust material with a strong resemblance to natural bamboo. Although it does not possess the tactile qualities and soft touch of natural bamboo, it was chosen for its long-term viability, ease of maintenance and overall cost. 


A comprehensive lighting system was integrated into the building’s outer skin.

 A comprehensive lighting system was integrated into the building’s outer skin so that the complex external latticework brilliantly lights up at night, like a bamboo lantern floating on the lake, creating a visually memorable scene for visitors to the site. 


 The visitor centre is divided into a general reception area, restaurant, conference space and VIP Club, among others. The reception hall is in the southwestern portion of the site to offer convenient accessibility, the restaurant occupies the northwestern side, which offers the best views of the landscape, the administration is in the quieter southeastern corner and the VIP Club is placed on the top floor to maximise views of the lake. 

Project information 

Project name: White Crane Lake Visitor Centre. 

Project location: White Crane Lake, Yingtan, Jiangxi Province. 

Site area: 6 500². 

Architecture area: 3 620m². 

Project architect: Jin’ang Yang, Archperience Design. 

Photography: Jianghe Zeng. 


Acknowledgement and thanks go to http://www.current-newswire.com/ for the information in this article. 

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