Located in Beijing's traditional Hutong district, the project’s structure space is an L-shaped neighbourhood, 450 square metres large. Currently, the space has five old traditional houses and temporary corroded steel houses. The building, which originally hosted company business meetings before going dormant due to poor management, had been transformed to a tea café. The tea café is an ample place for people to read while enjoying their tea time. Additionally, the café also serves individual dining guests.
The project design started by analyzing the old building's previous data. From the structure of the wood and the size of the grey bricks, one could tell that the relatively old north wing predates the Qing Dynasty. From the already decaying wood structure on the east and west houses, Arch Studio deduce that the houses ought to be remodelled from the 70s and 80s. Additionally, judging by the wood structure on the building’s south side, one could not deny the fact that it needed repair. The repair design was selective because it had to factor in the building's age, as well as its financial and historical value. Repair in the room in the north wing was light, changing only the parts with serious damage by replacing bricks. Repair in the north room was controlled to ensure it doesn't compromise the room's historical appearance. Repair in the south wing was aimed to give the room a basic style through a partial renovation of the roof and wall. After the East and West wing had been demolished, they were rebuilt into a wood structure with a pitched roof.
The new environment demands comfort requirements that the previous architecture could not sustain. To be temperature resistant as required, the building needed to be closed. Consequently, Arch Studio has streamlined the visualized structure of the building with a flat “curvy corridor” that creates a smooth transition from the past to the present.
In Chinese traditional buildings, gallery is a space form with one half outside, and the other half inside. It is winding and changeable, scatters randomly and adds great pleasure for visitors. The curvy gallery in this project extended from the outside to the inside of the old buildings like tree branches, blurs the boundaries between the courtyards and houses, and changes the dull and narrow impression of the courtyards. There is a great temperament contrast between the light, transparent and pure white gallery and the heavy, aged and dark old buildings, which makes the new-built part more fresh and the original buildings older, creating a communication between new and old. The curvy gallery divided 3 scattered curvy courtyards in the original courtyard, making each tea room has its own exterior scenery and create a transition between public and private. The glass curtain walls of the curvy gallery are like screens floating above the ground, reflecting the bamboo landscape and old buildings to the tea room, creating mixed images of new and old. The curvy gallery also acted as the structure of the old buildings, the steel beam column of the gallery replaced part of the decayed wood beam column of the original buildings, making the new and old grow together.
Significance of the project
The old city is not only historically rich but also has a complex reality. While historical value only sustains the city's value by income through exploration, the unlimited usage of the facility transforms the city into an art pattern. The transformation leaves the residents of the old city with the responsibility of maintaining the balance between the historical and art values. The richness of the environments solemnly depends on how flexible the residents are able to balance the two values. The new life and format can be seen as a catalyst to use history to enhance the usage of the facility.
About Arch Studio
Arch Studio devotes to using multi-perspective and rational means to intervene the development of contemporary urban living environment, finding a right balance between the connections of reality and nature, history and culture, creating a spatial environment that is full of the spirit of times and humanistic quality.
In this complex and multivariate era, new creation is not from a sudden inspiration, but from careful study of the unique needs and restrictions of each project, from uninterrupted breakthroughs and challenges to the restriction boarder, from continuous improvements in the whole process from concept to construction details, from skillful transformation between exterior and interior, new and old, artificial and natural, to make space as the communication medium between people and people, people and the environment, and create a new livable dwelling.
Location: East District, Beijing, China
Area: 450 sqm
Project type: Tea House
Design time: 06/2013 - 03/2014
Design Team: Han Wenqiang, Cong Xiao, Zhao Yang
Design company: ARCHSTUDIO (www.archstudio.cn)
Photographer: Wang Ning
Author: Han Wenqiang