The narrow alleyway connecting small courtyard residences, or Hutong, has been heralded as the definitive exemplar of Beijing’s urbanism since the city became the capital during the Yuan dynasty. To this day, legions of critics and writers have looked to Hutongs as a kind of architectural endangered species, evidence of how traditional urban fabrics have been crushed under the maw of modernization and construction. This explanation is too convenient, too simple, however, and does not capture the reality of the situation in Beijing – Hutongs proved to be more resilientand complex than ever. They are here to stay: they not only provide a glimpse into Beijing’s long and heralded history, but they are also a cultural and physical reality providing a key to a prosperous urban life in the future.
From Hutong to [META:HUTONGS]
Located in the middle of the old city of Beijing, META-Project has been interested in the regeneration and evolution of the Hutongs.
自2012年起，META-工作室的创始人王硕与建筑师安竹·布莱恩特发起并组织了[超胡同]。[超胡同]是一项备受殊荣的国际性研究合作项目，它获得格莱汉姆基金会（Graham Foundation）以及麦肯锡城市中国计划（Urban China Initiative）的持续支持，并在北京设计周，上海设计大展，威尼斯双年展等重要展览上展出。基于[超胡同]引发的思考， “西海边的院子”就是META-工作室所进行的关于如何在保护与拆除之间进行改造的一次尝试。
Since 2012, the founder of META-Project, Wang Shuo and Architect Andrew Bryant had initiated and organized [META:HUTONGS] , an award winning, internationally-recognized research collaborative. It is sponsored by the Graham Foundation, as well as Mckinsey Urban China Initiative (UCI), to carry through 4 years and has exhibited at Beijing Design Week, Design Shanghai, and Venice Biennale. Set out from the reflection of [META:HUTONGS], “Courtyard by the west sea” is an attempt for what can be done between preservation and demolition.
▼超胡同在威尼斯双年展，[META:HUTONGS] at Venice Biennale
Courtyard by the West Sea
西海边的院子项目位于什刹海西海东沿与德胜门内大街之间的一个狭长基地，在德胜门城楼正南方不到四百米。面朝西海一侧的两排砖混结构的厂房建筑，前身就是什刹海地区久负盛名的蓝莲花酒吧，基地东侧则是七八十年代搭建的几间矮小破旧的临时性房屋，没有保护价值。房主希望能将这一贯通西海与德胜门内大街的地块改造成具有北京胡同文化特质的空间，同时又能满足一系列非常当代的混合使用功能 – 包括茶室、正餐、聚会、办公、会议、以及居住、娱乐。
The project is located in a narrow base between Xihai(the West Sea) east bank and Deshengmen Inner Avenue, less than four hundred meters to the south of Deshengmen tower. Facing two rows of brick-hybrid structure plant construction on the side of the west sea, the predecessor of the site was the prestigious Blue Lotus Bar, on the eastern side were a few little shabby temporary housing built in the seventies and eighties, which had no conservation value. The owner hoped to renovate this land which goes through from the West Sea and Deshengmen Inner Avenue into a space with a kind of Beijing Hutong cultural characteristics, while meeting a series of very contemporary mixed-use features – including the tea house, dinner, party, office, conference, as well as living and entertainment.
META-Project combed through existing structures before conducting a detailed renovation and intervention andtransformed the courtyard into a “three-step-courtyard” form, And here the proposed “three-step-courtyard” is not an imitation of traditional courtyard’s axial symmetry pattern, but a contemporary reinterpretation of multi-layer courtyard and its possibility in depth by means of well-proportioned patchwork, movement of steps and shift of scenes, meanwhile satisfying owner’s wish to build a cultural life in this hutong, Three-step-courtyard is full of trees and vegetation and is in a clear division of various functions required by the owner, making daily walk a spatial experience with continuity and full of rhythm.
material tectonic experiment
Inner facade and west façade have used polished volcanic rock with five degrees of depth of palette, similar with the periphery walls of the mansions nearby hidden in the hutongs both in scale and in color, while in texture reflecting a more accurate and detailed change. Different-sized and-proportioned catalpa wood outdoor windows created through a complex construction are observed within the various viewpoints bringing changes in the facade expressions, while maximizing the possible viewing from the inside outward.
The fencing walls of the more open backyard have evolved into an experiment for material overlapping， after trying several different materials, we determined to use the “tube tile” as the main material for the walls of the back yard – thus the commonly roofing-used tube tiles for draining now layered vertically inside the old wall serving as a veil of fence, with carefully manipulated subtle twist, giving the original grey material a rich taste of light and shadow interaction under different lights and angles.
By carefully constructed volcanic rock, catalpa wood and tube tile, it has introduced into the courtyard a feel as if walking in the alley with rich material experiences.
▼筒瓦搭接构造图解及筒瓦细部，tube tile construction
interior experience creation
In order to continue the daily hutong courtyard experience into the interior space, we introduce “golden brick” flooring and grey brick walling, together with dark-colored wood grid screen and built-in furniture defining a fluidized space. All creations indoors circle around outdoor nature (the West Seaand courtyard). Different “windows” have become the “transformer” linking and mutually penetrating inside and the external environment.
Courtyard by the West Sea,an ongoing dialogue between the exterior city and the interior intends to find and elaborate a Beijing hutong life in contemporary qualities.
LOCATION：West Sea, Beijing
DATE：The year of 2013
PROGRAM：Tea House, Dinner, Party, Office, Conference,Living and Entertainment
LIGHTING CONSULTANT：Han Xiaowei