The Chinese government may not be celebrated for supporting Tibetan culture, but the Beijing-based design firm Standard Architecture is. Winners of the international "Architecture in Stone 2011" award from Marmomacc for the striking Niyang River Visitor Center and two other buildings in Tibet, their efforts to incorporate local materials and building techniques into their projects have not gone unrecognized. Completed in June, 2011, the attractive white visitor center on Mirui Road is an open geometric structure built mostly out of locally-sourced stone that acts as a portal to river rafting and other tourist activities. It also acts as a symbol of hope that the Chinese and Tibetans can work side by side to foster sustainable development that benefits everyone.
Standing on a concrete foundation, the minimalist stone building is covered with aga clay – a waterproofing and heat insulation material commonly used in Tibetan vernacular architecture. It is also useful for forming gutters that ensure the turf-covered roof is well drained. Standard Architecture’s unique geometric design pays respect to the surrounding landscape of mountains, rivers, and canyons at the same time that its four entrances are wrapped around a more immediate central courtyard. And finally, out of deference to the amazing Potala Palace in Lhasa, the designers chose a bright white paint for the exterior, giving this humble space a rustic but contemporary finish.