Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Winner: Hutong Children’s Library and Art Centre Beijing, China

Architect: ZAO/standardarchitecture – Client: Dashilar Investment

Project Gallery

 

Project description

The hutongs of Beijing are fast disappearing. The residential compounds, with their layering of spaces and multiple courtyards, are often viewed as messy and insalubrious – almost as slums. If they find a place in the modern city, it is often in sanitised form, as a tourist attraction, filled with boutiques. The attempt to find a new use for this traditional building form – one that would benefit the local community – motivated this proposal for a space that would serve both the pupils from the nearby primary school and the hutong’s remaining, mostly elderly, residents. Besides a children’s library and exhibition space, the centre hosts a local handicrafts studio and classes in painting and dance.

Key to the design was the renovation and reuse of existing elements in the courtyard, which included informal add-on structures, such as kitchens. The massing follows the conditions found at the site, and the height of the boxes is dictated by the height of the roof around them. Gathering together all the masses and activities is a giant scholar tree, perhaps 600 years old – as old as the courtyard itself.

The redesigned buildings in the centre of the courtyard have a lightweight steel structure and a ‘floating’ foundation – hollow steel beams simply laid on the ground – to protect the roots of the tree. The materials – chosen to blend with the urban surroundings – are principally grey bricks, both new and recycled, and, for the library, concrete mixed with Chinese ink – an innovation tested here for the first time.

Inside the library, windows frame unusual views out into the courtyard and follow the interior functions – as, for example, in the glazed reading nook that children reach by climbing some steps. The adaptable furniture – seating that can become an ad-hoc table or a ‘secret cave’, say – accommodates the spontaneity of childhood.

On the outside, the insertion of an outdoor staircase alongside each structure creates viewing platforms amid the tree’s branches where the users of the courtyard – children and adults alike – can survey the neighbourhood and enjoy a breath of rare, chlorophyll-laced air.

 

Jury citation

“Urbanisation in China has a complex relation with the past. How do you move forward while recognising the values of the built heritage? The response to this question has often led to a stark contrast between the old and the new, with the latter being seen as the sole marker of progress. Yet others have sought alternative strategies for urbanisation. Increasingly there is a call for a more nuanced consideration of the old and the existing, as potentially indispensable parts of urban developments.”

“The Micro Yuan’er Children’s Library and Art Centre is an exemplary representative of the modification and adaptive re-use of a historic building. In Beijing, as in other places, a growing number of hutongs are being restored. But this hutong is not a typical restoration project. By providing new structures and new public uses in the middle of the building’s courtyard, it entwines the private lives of the older inhabitants with the public use of a new children’s library and art centre.”

“The architectural strategy of this modest but highly articulate intervention is to use the existing buildings and landscape as the armature for the new construction. The use of a limited palette of materials, such as brick, wood and glass, helps the space of the courtyard to become denser through the addition of the new structures.”

“The hutong provides an example of how the adaptive re-use of an older building can become the basis for a new form of micro-urbanism that constructs productive reciprocities between the private and the public. This is an approach that can be potentially replicated in other locations and within a diversity of communities.”

“Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge is a successful example of a calculated risk taken by a client, met with the youth and enthusiasm of a group of competent professionals whose work is commendable and deserving of recognition.”

 

About Zhang Ke – www.standardarchitecture.cnwww.z-a-o.cn

Zhang Ke received his master’s degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, having previously studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He is the founder of studio ZAO/standardarchitecture, a new-generation design firm engaged in practices of planning, architecture, landscape and product design. Based on a wide range of completed buildings and landscapes over the past ten years, the studio has emerged as the most critical and realistic practice among the young generation of Chinese architects and designers.

Consciously distancing itself from many of the other ‘typical’ young-generation architects who are swallowed up by a trend of noise-making, the office remains detached in a time of media frenzy and their focus is consistently positioned to enable the realisation of urban visions and ideas. Although ZAO/standardarchitecture’s built works often involve
exceptionally provocative visual results, their buildings and landscapes are always rooted in their historic and cultural settings, the outcomes produced through a process of intellectual debate.

 

Project Data

Total area 145 m2
Cost 105,000 USD
Commission September 2012
Design September 2012 – July 2014
Construction March 2014 – December 2015
Completion September 2014 – December 2015

 

Aga Khan Award for Architecture Website

www.akdn.org/architecture

 

2016 Winners

 

2016 Nominated Projects

makoko_022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 19): Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria - The Floating School is a prototype structure whose main aim is to generate an alternative building system and urban culture for the populations of Africa’s coastal regions. The triangular A-frame or pyramid
AKTC / Habibeh Madjdabadi Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 18): 40 Knots House, Tehran, Iran - Creating a small and low budget apartment building in Tehran does not leave much space for creativity, yet an architect can try to do something with the material, textures, outer envelope and light.
AKTC / Hassan Saifuddin Chandan Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 17): Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh - In an increasingly dense neighbourhood of Dhaka, the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque was raised on a plinth on a site axis creating a 13-degree angle with the qibla direction, which called for creativity with the layout.
AKTC / Cemal Emden Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 16): Bunateka Libraries, various locations, Kosovo - A series of public libraries for disadvantaged youth in rural areas. “The idea is that books are a source of knowledge just like water is the source of life,” says the architect.
AKAA / AREP / Didier Boy de la Tour Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 15): Casa-Port New Railway Station, Casablanca, Morocco - Casa-Port railway station (French: Gare de Casa-Port) is a "Moroccan National Railway" station in the centre of Casablanca. This transport hub, designed to anticipate 25 million passenger trips-per-year in the future
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Shortlisted Project: Ceuta Public Library, Spain Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 14): Ceuta Public Library, Spain - Ceuta, is a small Spanish enclave city on the Moroccan soil. The site of the Ceuta library is located on the original Marinid dynasty's archaeological area...The excavation ground was included in the interior space of the public building, and the architects
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Shortlisted Project: Doha Tower, Doha, Qatar Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 13): Doha Tower, Doha, Qatar - It is a cylindrical volume that measures 45m in diameter. The steel and concrete structure follows a diamond shaped grid that bends along the virtual surface of the cylinder. The façade uses a double skin system. The exterior skin is composed
Friendship Centre, Gaibandha, Bangladesh Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 12): Friendship Centre, Bangladesh - The Friendship Centre in Gaibandha, Bangladesh, was built for the local NGO Friendship, which provides services for poor citizens of the region. Built by Dhaka-based architect Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury, it was designed
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Shortlisted Project Guelmim School of Technology, Morocco Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 11): Guelmim School of Technology, Morocco - Situated in Guelmim, Morocco, 200 kilometres south of Agadir and known as the “door of the Sahara”, the School was conceived in line with a policy of decentralisation and making education more accessible to those living in remote areas.
Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 10): Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon - The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) building at the American University of Beirut (AUB) advances the university’s academic mission in the 21st century
National Library_033 Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 9): King Fahad National Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - The King Fahad National Library is one of the most important cultural buildings in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was completed and went into use for its intended purpose in November 2013.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 8): Manouchehri House, Textile Centre & Boutique Hotel, Kashan, Iran Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 8): Manouchehri House, Textile Centre & Boutique Hotel, Kashan, Iran - The Manouchehri House is a boutique hotel and textile centre situated in Kashan’s historic residential neighborhood, in the province of Isfahan. The project entailed the restoration of a 19th century merchant home
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 7): Micro Yuan'er - Hutong/courtyard Renovation, Beijing, China Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 7): Micro Yuan’er – Hutong/courtyard Renovation, Beijing, China - Micro Yuan'er is a project by zhang ke’s Beijing-based standardarchitecture, which revitalizes a historic hutong courtyard. The inserted structure, which contains a miniature art space and library
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 6): Restoration of Nasrid Tower, Almeria, Spain Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 6): Restoration of Nasrid Tower, Almeria, Spain - This project by Castillo Miras Arquitectos explores the dichotomy between the solid, ageless construction of the existing 13th century Nasrid Tower, and the provisional, light, and degradable nature of the contemporary.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 5): New Power Station - Baku, Azerbaijan Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 5): New Power Station – Baku, Azerbaijan - The Power Station is located on a natural harbor in the Bay of Baku, which used to serve as a small shipyard for the ships working for the oil platforms. The original brief asked the architects to demolish the old
Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 4): Royal Academy for Nature Conservation - Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 4): Royal Academy for Nature Conservation – Ajloun Forest Reserve, Jordan - Royal Academy for Nature Conservation in Ajloun Forest Reserve of Jordan is “the first centre in the Arab world” specialised in offering training on nature conservation.
Superkilen - Public Park - Copenhagen, Denmark Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 3): Superkilen – Public Park – Copenhagen, Denmark - Superkilen is a public park in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, Denmark. A public space promoting integration across lines of ethnicity, religion and culture. A meeting place for residents of Denmark
Tabiat - Pedestrian Bridge - Tehran, Iran Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 2): Tabiat – Pedestrian Bridge – Tehran, Iran - Tabiat Bridge, literally: “Nature Bridge” is the largest pedestrian overpass built in Tehran, Iran. The architects first conceived the two-to-three level, 270-metre-long curved pedestrian bridge of varying width
Thread - Artists Residency & Cultural Center - Senegal Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted Project # 1): Thread – Artists Residency & Cultural Center – Senegal - Thread is a socio-cultural centre that houses two artists’ dwellings and studio space for local and international artists. An ecologically sensitive meeting place which demonstrates how art and architecture can be part of rural life

 

Researched & Compiled by Arif Ali

 

Author: Arif Ali

Arif lives miles away from the crowded city of Chicago. He has interest in technology, spirituality, religion, psychology and community. Find him somewhat engaged on Twitter.

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