Posts tagged Beijing
Quad House, Beijing

Architect Nolan Chao and the ARCHISTRY design&research office team documented their transformation of a century-old hutong in Beijing’s Qianmen district into a slick speakeasy

Along the narrow alleyways of Beijing’s historic Qianmen district, a stylish speakeasy bar that blends traditional and modern Chinese elements has opened. Originally the space was a residential building, before being transformed into a spare parts factory, and then a Mahjong, chess and card room. Now, ARCHISTRY design&research office have tweaked the evocative space and opened a bar, which spans across two floors, and includes a terrace area as well as a secluded courtyard. The material palette is reminiscent of the Republic era with bricks, stones, concrete and wood, and the bar embraces the familiar grey tiled rooftops which are so distinctive of Beijing’s hutongs. Principal architect Nolan Chao found the blueprint of the original construction and created a new arch structure and facade to mirror the original. He likens his creative role to an ‘archaeologist and restorer’ rather than architect, and at Quad House guests can rediscover Beijing’s past with a cocktail in hand.

Video / Yang Bo

Images / David Chu

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‘Childhood Series’ by Wanghe Studio

Wang He’s debut collection is designed for young urbanites

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China has a staggering 160 cities that each accommodate more than a million residents; at least fifteen of them are home to over 10 million people. The younger generations, like in many parts of the world, are drawn to these cities and the career prospects, culture and lifestyle they offer. Urban sprawl and density are increasingly serious issues in the world's most populous country, and with the recent end to its one-child policy, who knows what the future holds for affordability and average living space sizes.

Up-and-coming designer Wang He knows all too well the issues facing the younger generation who live in China's most crowded and expensive cities. Beijing, where he lives and works, ranks third in terms of overall population.

The young designer graduated from London's Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design programme and stayed on in the UK to take up a job offer at Theo Williams Studio. During his time with the studio Wang worked with clients such as IKEA and John Lewis & Partners — both of which helped shape the designer's ideas about affordability and design democracy.

Upon returning to his home city in 2016 Wang landed a job with the in-house design team of Chinese furniture brand ZaoZuo (read more in DA11), a brand quickly establishing a reputation for desirable, high-quality products made in China and designed by an impressive roster of international designers, including Sebastian Herkner and Luca Nichetto.

Earlier this year Wang moved on to establish his own company, Wanghe Studio. His breakout collection, titled ‘Childhood Series,’ was exhibited at the London Design Festival this September. Consisting of five essential pieces, the collection was designed with the younger generation in mind: ‘drifters,’ as Wang calls them, are those who sacrifice personal space for the dream of city living. The collection is meant to be affordable and appealing to these young urbanites.

The materials used are simple and don’t require expensive moulds or tooling. This means that production in China is quick and affordable, and the results are of good quality. The shapes, profiles and colours are playful and youthful, but most importantly they are lightweight and portable, with the rental market in mind.

As large cities the world over become increasingly crowded, average home sizes are shrinking while prices rise. The need for well-designed, flexible and affordable furnishings is not unique to China. However, taking the lead in the design and production of pieces so widely appealing and attainable may go a long way towards changing the stigma attached to the ‘Made in China’ label.

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Wanghe Studio

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Lane House, Beijing

Finnish architect Alvar Aalto once said that architecture should be 'in harmony with the human being'. Extrapolate from this what you will, but Beijing-based architect Nolan Chao of ARCHISTRY design&research office has taken the literal route.

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When an adventurous young design-loving couple approached the architect to redesign the high-rise apartment they had purchased in the PRC capital they were looking for something different. Together with his clients Chao wanted to investigate a new typology for space planning within such a high density urban context, and break away from tired stereotypes of what a modern apartment might look like. Taking into consideration the client’s daily rituals and working from there, a new floorplan was created. The new layout contains contradictions between public and private space, not unlike the traditional alley homes, or ‘Hutongs’, that are an important part of Beijing’s architectural vernacular.

Chao says he removed many of the internal walls to create a significantly larger feeling space which allows the couple an enormous sense of flexibility and freedom. Moving curtains and partitions allow the homeowners more control over when and how they use their space, and its this movable, shape-shifting nature that Chao refers to when he says the plan is essentially ‘a block within a block, or ‘a lane within a lane’.

Efficiency is likely a word that Le Corbusier would have used when referring to his buildings, or ‘machines for living’, which seems to contradict Aalto’s theory entirely. But here, in one of China’s most expensive cities, the two sides coincide peacefully.

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Cai Yunpu

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Beijing Serpentine Pavilion

The legendary Serpentine Pavilion opens its first architectural installation outside of the UK in the heart of the Chinese capital

Beijing’s Forbidden City faces an across-town architectural competitor this summer as the iconic Serpentine Pavilion, designed each year for London’s Kensington Gardens, opens in the heart of China’s capital for the first time.  

The world-class commission, won by Chengdu studio Jiakun Architects, created a sense of eager expectation as it is the first time in the pavilion’s 18-year history that the project has been built outside the UK. Earlier winners of the pavilion design in London include SANAA, Sou Fujimoto and Zaha Hadid.

So what triggered the Serpentine Galleries’ decision to extend its scope internationally and why Beijing?

‘The initiative was prompted by the keen interest of WF Central [part of developer Hongkong Land] in the Serpentine Galleries’ architecture programme and the desire to partner on this project and present it in Beijing,’ explains Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Serpentine’s artistic director.

Keen to bring its commitment to experimental architecture to a wider audience, the Serpentine Galleries felt this was ‘a great fit and great timing to bring this project to China’, according to Obrist.

The design for the temporary six-month pavilion was challenging, given it’s location adjacent to WF Central’s new luxury shopping and hotel complex as well as the Forbidden City. ‘I needed to take both the innovation of architectural language and the historical traditional elements of the scene into consideration,’ says Liu. The architect also wanted to avoid ‘so-called Chinese elements and traditional symbols’ and to adopt ‘a contemporary and revolutionary architectural language to express more inner Oriental consciousness’.

The pavilion’s stark, elegant ribs in the form of a curving cantilever are anchored by cables stretched between steel plates, suggesting a powerful force able to withstand the buffeting of elements and events through time.

Liu describes the pavilion, which is built on grass, as ‘semi-formal architecture’. In keeping with the tradition of the cultural and community activities at London’s Serpentine pavilion, the open, flexible shape will house exhibitions, installations, lectures, and a range of social and artistic activities throughout its short six-month lifespan.

The pavilion and the new retail complex are part of the regeneration of Beijing’s Wangfujing area in the Dongcheng district, known as a commercial centre since the middle of the Ming Dynasty. For the next six months at least, it will become a cultural hub, too.

For visiting information and to learn more about the pavilion, read more here.

Text / Ruth Sullivan
Images / Courtesy of Serpentine Pavilion Beijing 2018 designed by JIAKUN Architects, WF Central, Beijing (30 May – 31 October 2018) WF CENTRAL © 2018

Vue Hotel

The new Vue Hotel brand has opened its first location in Beijing’s hutong district of Houhai. With each property designed around a central narrative inspired by its locale and culture, the Beijing flagship reflects Chinese vernacular following its adaptive reuse of historical structures from the 1950s. Interiors, handled by Ministry of Design, are contemporary and comfortable, with a focus on the unique architectural lodging and its lakeside location; several dining options offer views out over the serene Houhai lake and park.  

Beijing Design Week
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Design Anthology is excited to be partnering with Beijing Design Week (BJDW) this year for the very first time. The event, which takes place from 23 September to 7 October, has grown steadily in size over the past years and garnered international respect. Under the creative direction of Beatrice Leanza, the event’s satellite-like platform has seen a variety of installations and interventions in multiple historic and new creative districts around China's capital city, and this year will be no different.

Of particular interest is the Baitasi Remade project (which first launched during BJDW 2015) — an urban renewal project tasked with integrating community engagement via architectural and infrastructure upgrades. Titled Urban Learning & The Future of Sharing, the program includes a series of site-oriented initiatives that centre around ‘the future of design education and sharing culture’.

Traditional hutong architecture in the Baitasi area, one of the districts taken over by Beijing Design Week

Traditional hutong architecture in the Baitasi area, one of the districts taken over by Beijing Design Week

Across Chinese Cities, from the exhibition CHINA HOUSE VISION, is part of the offering from China at the cur­rent Venice Biennale of Architecture and takes on the issue of future living and habitation. The official launch of the China House Vision Book by Sanlian Publishing during BJDW will see founder Kenya Hara at a series of events.

A first for this edition of BJDW will be the inclusion of the Beijing Media Art Biennale, adopting a theme of Ethics of Technology. The event is organised by the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the China Millennium Monument in collaboration with the B3 Moving Image Biennale (Berlin).

Stay tuned for social media updates from our Editor in Chief who’ll be on the ground in Beijing from 4 – 8 October. Follow us on Instagram @design_anthology or find us on Facebook!