The city of Foshan, located in China’s southeastern Guangdong province, is known for many things: Cantonese opera, kung fu, and southern lion dancing, in which performers celebrate the glamour and ferocity of the big cats.
It’s also the birthplace of He Xiao-Ping, as well as the location of , the firm she and Li Xing-Lin launched in 2009 with the idea that, as He says, “design is not only a kind of production service, but also a way of thinking—an attitude toward life.” So when asked the studio to create an installation last year, the duo reflected on their lives and decided to pay tribute to their home. “Everything has an origin,” says Li.
The designers devised a small pavilion, a 10-foot steel-plate cube sitting in a grassy field. Perforations in the exterior walls form a map of the region and spell out the city’s name. Inside, a single-file pathway with mirrored ceiling and floor leads around a bamboo-enclosed courtyard. In this “cage,” a paper-and-bamboo lion’s head sits on a leather drum—both elements from the traditional lion dance, which is further evoked by lights inside the translucent head that change color in coordination with recorded music.
This dynamic tribute is joined by a quieter, but no less apposite one: Viewed from above, the pavilion’s steel walls and bamboo screens form the Chinese character hui, which means to return.