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- Av. without name, 516100 Boluo
“Rhizome” Labyrinth in the Forest — Climbing Park of Luofu Mountain
Key words: rhizome, becoming, labyrinth
Lying in mountains with a lake by the side, the School Affiliated to Luofu Mountain Chinese Classics Institute in Guangdong province is surrounded by woods. Hundreds of evergreen trees flourish in the valley. The school authorities expect the forest to be available for outdoor activities, which enables students to explore nature.
Concept: simulating natural order
Without human intervention, the forest presents natural order that serves as the prototype of design to arouse students’ desire for exploration. Natural order is of two kinds. One is the order of trees, longitudinal growth, which is reflected by the progress from seeds to grown ones, from trunks to branches. The other refers to rhizome’s order. These subterranean stems spread horizontally and send out roots to intertwine with one another. Deleuze and Guattari drew an analogy between the order of trees to a Greek mode of thinking that features causality, hierarchy, and dualism. In contrast to it was another mode like the growth of rhizomes which embraces only intermediate state with no beginnings or ends, growing and spreading in the environment.
As a natural order, rhizome also indicates a mode of thinking, which was interpreted by a design language in this case. The polyester network demonstrated the materialization of rhizome’s order. Hundreds of white triangular nets of different sizes connected trees together, becoming conjoint topological planes and making lateral expansion in the valley. This rhizome network simulated the order of nature, juxtaposed with growing trees. Except those already withered, no tree was felled due to the construction. Triangular nets were weaved carefully around trees, fixed by wires that were fastened on sleepers to protect the trunks. Extra pillars were placed where there was no tree strong enough to link. It took one year to construct the system, during which all trees in the valley managed to get over gusts of typhoons. The rhizome system interweaved with the forest into an organic whole.
Construction: becoming rhizome
The climbing system simulates rhizome’ becoming mechanism as well as its shape. Rhizome possesses potential for great changes. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze described this capacity as deterritorialization. Besides, rhizomes are capable of adapting to the ever changing environment in order to ensure stability and order, which is called reterritorialization. Rhizome never ceases changing. It keeps taking new lines of flight, new margin of the system, and remaining in the course of becoming.
Using polyester net to construct the space determined the dynamic feature of its becoming space system. The becoming process highly resembled rhizome’s character. Trees didn’t have definite positions or diameters, which leads to ‘randomicity’, so that salient errors arose when construction was being carried out as planned. Therefore, extemporaneous adjustment of spatial form according to the specific position of all plants had to be made one by one. Hence the plan evolved from initial graph to the derivative model to the finally realized spatial form after a series of improvement. What’s more, as positions of triangular nets got adjusted in accordance with the exact location of boles, trees’ roles were constantly redefined because of the ever-changing network. Getting rid of specific beginnings and ends, this system can expand horizontally like rhizomes and grow with the woods.
Exploration: experiencing the labyrinth
It is children’s playing that enlivens the whole climbing system, letting the space extend in time dimension. Deleuze combined the term, duration, proposed by Bergson, with the time labyrinth in Borges’ novel, bringing forth a new model of time, a labyrinth constructed by numerous virtual channels, in which time-travel became possible. The nets, in the light of rhizome’s growth, transform finally into a labyrinth of space, and Borges’ labyrinth of time alike.
White ropes interweave with branches, bearing no beginnings or ends. Swaying with the net feels like floating on water, or traveling by clouds. Some people come with goals, aiming for exits or posts in nodes. Exits are distributed either in the air or on the ground. Three big spiral tubular nets connect ground with the suspended rhizome system, but people may find it difficult to recognize the exits formed by ropes until they get close enough. On aerial platforms, octagonal mazes interlock, making up another challenge for participants. Two hemispherical platforms, named jellyfishes of the forest, loom in the network, surrounded by interlinked cages. Children affectionately call the layers of cages wormholes, which are nodes in this climbing system, interspersing among trees. A variety of approaches are available for children so that they can climb between the nodes by different routes. Wobbling in the net, one may fail to distinguish whether he has taken the same routes once again, which reminds us of films of time labyrinth, where the same thing happens repeatedly in countless parallel worlds. In space labyrinth people lose their bearings, arousing determination for finding a way out and setting themselves free; time labyrinth perplexes people, urging them to introspect and retrieve their ‘ego’.
Some participants simply come to enjoy rather than to challenge the labyrinth. They would consider every stop as what the nature dealt them, having their breath in step with the whole forest. Leaving direction and destination behind, they linger among crowns in different heights to get in touch with nature and integrate themselves into the environment to the maximum extent. helping squirrels build houses, singing with birds, lying in the sunshine glistening through the leaves. Playing in rough-and-tumble, children get to know and help each other; while sitting in silence, they picture the beauty that resonates with nature. Unconsciously, they grow up free from cares. Moreover this enjoyment is also for parents. Climbing can arouse their long-lost childlike innocence. Strolling in the serene valley, everyone is a child of nature.
 Deleuze Gilles, Guattari Félix. A Thousand Plateau: Capitalism and schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, 3rd edn[M]. London: Athlone, 1996, 21.
 Damian Sutton, David Martin Jones. Art to Deleuze’s Eye[M], trans. Lin He, Chongqing: Publishing House of Chongqing University, 2016, 21.
 Deleuze Gilles. Cinema 2: The time-image(1985), trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, 2nd edn[M]. London: Athlone, 1994, 131.
 Borges Jorge Louis. "The Garden of Forking Paths", in Labyrinths[M]. London: Penguin, 1962, 44-45.
Project Name: Climbing Park of Luofu Mountain
Architect in charge：Zhang Hetian
Design Team：Zhang Hetian, Cai Feiyong, Zheng Zhihua, Sun Qingfeng, Sun Jihua, Wang Enzi
Location：the School Affiliated to Luofu Mountain Chinese Classics Institute , Boluo County,
Huizhou City, Canton Province, China
Completion Year: 2018
Photographer: Zhang Hetian
Development company: the School Affiliated to Luofu Mountain Chinese Classics Institute
Construction company: Beijing Changchenghuayao Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd
Materials：polyester net (NB: Maybe it is one of the biggest polyester-net climbing parks, specially built for school, in the world.)
Note： This project was selected and published by several international webs of profession like domus, designboom, etc.
Writer： Wang Zhilei, doctoral candidate at Peking University Graduate Center of Architecture