Huangdu Art Center
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Huangdu Art Center

The beauty of old Beijing exists in the empty space between architecture, where trees grow and birds live. As such, the buildings themselves do not have to show any special shape in order to be unique.

 – Lao She

Old Beijing is built of a tight network of hutongs, closely woven districts of communal courtyard housing blocks. The basic typology of these districts is one-storey buildings forming distinct geometric patterns repeated at high density. This historic urban fabric is increasingly under threat; it is now forced to retreat for the larger, monumental modern architecture of contemporary Beijing.

The site of this project illuminates this controversial issue in urban sprawl. Positioned in close proximity to the heart of old Beijing, close to historically significant architecture such as the Forbidden City and opposite the National Art Museum of China, the site straddles this divide: small scale hutongs remain at the sites western edge, yet the east is bounded by a modern axis of major city routes, commercial malls and hotels.

In response to this dilemma, MAD proposes to create a building established on many small hutong-scalar pieces that collectively achieve the overall volume. Huangdu is designed by layering different courtyard vertically, resulting in multifaceted, semi-solid volumes, which maintains the spatial relationships and hollow cores of the courtyards.

Huangdu is an urban instrument signifying Beijing’s aspirations to be a forward looking city yet always respects its roots and its past. This proposal extends the city fabric from small to large, negotiating the two scales at work here on site, and provide a means to reconcile two worlds of Beijing today.

Location : Beijing, China
Type : Art Gallery, Hotel
Time : 2008
Site Area : 6,300sqm
Building Area : 46,000sqm
Directors : Ma Yansong, Dang Qun
Advisor : Bao Pao
Design Team : Felipe Escudero, Sophia Tang, Alan Kwan, Helen Yanyang Li, Liu Wei Wei, Harijs Alsin, Tang Liu, Stefan Ritter
Associate Engineer : Beijing Institute of Architecture Design (BIAD)