Going into the Beijing Hutongs

Going into the old traditional Beijing area and being invited to collaborate with ideas and design for the future possibilities in harmony with the local culture is a precious and unique experience...Beijing 2020, produced by Dida Media.

Inside the 2nd.Ring Road the most historical district in Beijing we can find countless opportunities to research, discuss and propose for the future. One of the great examples of a career devoted in recovering and renovating historical buildings is the architect Dan Qing. Living herself inside this single floor structures organized along small alleys called “Hutongs”. We spent long time exploring and analyzing her renovated buildings inside the traditional courtyards around Lama Temple area. Afterward I was invited to propose and design with sketches and ideas for a new project.    

The most caught my attention from the very beginning was to rediscover the original space from a new point of view. Climbing into the roof in such a horizontal neighborhood was a totally new spatial perception. Having the Confucius Temple just in front but watching it 4m above the ground, near the trees, birds and the sophisticated traditional roofs with colors and patterns which tell stories from long time ago it was a moment of Zen. In addition the renovated roof had incorporated indoor functions into the outdoor, such as working space, water bar, seating areas, etc. More than the design of the new forms and materials themselves what is important is the relation with the existent spaces and structures and the new functions that match our modern lifestyle.

In my practice the search of this delicate balance between old and new have been very active. We often face commissions from clients that need to renovate old factories, office towers or structures. In those cases always felt passionate to research the past of those buildings, the former life style and users, how they related with those spaces, how was their life 15, 30 or 60 years ago. How have been changed and develop the society since then, what are the values we should keep from the past and what are the new values in our modern environment. To enjoy a cup of tea, to combine contemporary furniture with millenary bricks or roof tiles, the bamboo gardens and the nature seen through a pure glass wall supported by a thin metal frame, to watch the sky or catch the sunlight from a new window on the ceiling are small actions that improve our quality of life.  

The combination of all those details and experiences connect the society from past to future refreshing the memory of a place for the generations to come. Also brings to architecture its essential mission: To belong to a place, re-discover its surroundings, unveil its values and set a dream for the future.

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