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How three abandoned quarries in rural China were turned into stunning

There are over 3,000 abandoned quarries in the mountainous landscape of Jinyun County in southeast China. In the past year, however, some of them have been carefully transformed from empty pits into cultural destinations carved into the rock.

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[Photo: courtesy DnA]

The converted quarries are now the subject of a new exhibition in Berlin with films, translucent models and drawings by Beijing-based architect Xu Tiantian and her company DnA Design and Architecture. In April 2021, Jinyun County asked the architect to redesign nine quarries located within a one-mile radius of each other. So far three have been completed and converted into various performance spaces and a library with bookshelves and study benches. The project provides a model for closed quarries around the world. It’s also a reminder that such negative assets, be they abandoned factories or empty buildings, can also be turned into something valuable.

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[Photo: Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk/courtesy DnA]

Quarries can be mined for up to 50 years before exhausting their resources such as limestone, granite or marble. They are then abandoned, resulting in gaping holes that can fill with water and form dangerous quarry ponds. In North America, some of these depleted quarries have found new uses, such as: amphitheater, botanical gardensand even adventure parks. In central San Diego, a massive sand and gravel quarry has been converted into a 225-acre neighborhood called Quarry Falls, complete with apartments, a community center and parks. And in Atlanta, the 400 foot deep Bellwood Quarry– once a popular filming location for movies and TV shows like stranger things— has become the Westside Reservoir, which contains 2.4 billion gallons of emergency drinking water.

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[Photo: courtesy DnA]

Many of these quarries spanned hundreds of acres and were operated by large corporations. In comparison, the Jinyun quarries in China were family-run and hand-quarried. They are also larger and carved into the mountains, some of them reaching 150 feet in height. According to Xu, people in the region have been quarrying for over 1,000 years: “It’s a local industry, but also a cultural and historical heritage for all families.”

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Quarry No.8 [Photo: courtesy DnA]

Today, Jinyun County has over 400,000 residents spread over 18 villages. The quarries are right next to some of these villages, but they have been abandoned for over two decades. At one point, Xu says, the district wanted to convert one of them into a Buddhist temple or even a luxury hotel, but plans were scrapped because of the sheer investment and extensive engineering work that needed to be done. In contrast, Xu says she approached the project like much of her work: with so-called architectural acupuncture and minimal intervention.

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Quarry No.8 [Photo: courtesy DnA]

“We started with something very practical that could become a model for other quarries,” she says. At Quarry 8, she used the existing stair system, which was once used to reach the stations where workers mined, to create a series of interconnected terraces where people can read, study and calligraph. The main interventions here were simple wooden railings, bookshelves and lighting. “We are introducing materials for people,” says Xu.

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Quarry No.9 [Photo: courtesy DnA]

In Quarry 9, which was converted into a performance space, the architects worked with an acoustics engineer to improve the sound quality. A double-heavy duty wooden railing hugs the perimeter; It prevents people from grabbing and damaging the stone and hides sound-absorbing material behind it. And at Quarry 10, where local stonemasons wanted to demonstrate the work that shaped the region through live performances, Xu and her team built an observation deck with seating in the amphitheater. (This quarry also had to be stabilized with a concrete arch connecting both sides of the mountain at the entrance.)

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Quarry No.10 [Photo: courtesy DnA]

Overall, the renovations took about seven months and cost just $600,000 — or less than the cost of a new building, Xu said. “The quarries could become valuable assets for the local county,” she says. “With design you can introduce different programs and functions.”

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Quarry No.9 [Photo: courtesy DnA]

The idea behind these transformations is similar to the principles of adaptive reuse; Except that in this case the architect is not redesigning a vacant, unused building, but a disused quarry. However, the end goal isn’t all that different. “Instead of building new buildings, we can reuse existing spaces,” she says. “Although this is a very pragmatic project, the concept is about a different way of thinking about architecture and whether we need to build so many new buildings.”

https://www.fastcompany.com/90734364/how-three-abandoned-quarries-in-rural-china-were-transformed-into-stunning-cultural-venues?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner How three abandoned quarries in rural China were turned into stunning

JACLYN DIAZ

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