Ramble – Office in Hutong – IFP

Step by step, sit back and watch the world

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Ramble is album with several sub albums. Here is one: Office in Hutong. Beijing, as the capital of China, has a long history, and currently is going through fast economical development. Hutong, as the traditional urban typology of Beijing city, is slowly disappearing. We try to find the offices in those Hutong, discover their ideas and life.


This time, gooood’s searching steps stop at IFP–No. 13, Black Sesame Hutong, Dongcheng district, Beijing.


Black Sesame Hutong is an east-west lane, stretching from Nanluoguxiang at the east to Nanxiawazi Hutong at the west, Shajing Hutong at the south to Qiangulouyuan Hutong at the north, 265m in length and 5m in width. It was named Hezhima Hutong in Ming Dynasty and renamed as Black Sesame
Hutong in Qing Dynasty.


Being next to “Nanluoguxiang”, a traditional Hutong extremely popular among tourists, Black Sesame Hutong is bustling and noisy at the border with the renowned tourist Hutong when the weekend comes. However, No. 13 where IFP is located is far from the noisy access, and becomes an oasis of serenity amid chaos. It is a classical quadrangle dwelling with a garden, as well as a long history. The original owner “Jun Kui” (Qing Dynasty) is one of the four rich men in the capital, and also the Minister of Royal Household Bureau. Mengyu Gu, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of China once lived here. Though changed through the time, the courtyard still reminds us of its glorious history.


▼黑芝麻糊同  Black Sesame Hutong


▼13号院大门 (大门带着雀替) Entrance_No.13 Courtyard

The outward IFP office occupies the three rooms facing south while the inward principle room and the wing-room are the temporary living place for the foreign artists who work in China for a short time.






IFP,是激发研究所 (Institute for Provocation)的简称。这座位于北京城市中心的工作空间,是一个集结了驻地艺术项目,研究项目,工作坊以及讲座的智库。IFP旨在发掘艺术、建筑、设计以及城市研究领域的交汇路口,以及各种态度之间的贯通之处。作为一个工作空间,IFP将目光投向艺术家在实际创作前的思考过程、甚至试图超越创作本身:剧作信息的采集、对不同建筑情境的测试、新媒体或者学科的试验等等。出于对公共空间的特别关注,IFP致力于通过自发性的干预和研究项目来激发有关城市空间和场所的新叙事。IFP在中国建立了一个由行动者、创造者及研究者所构成的广泛网络,为驻地艺术家以及他们的协作者提供情报。后者也自然成为这个网络的一部分。与此同时,IFP不断地探究城市做为一个机体组织,其结构、历史以及其运行的理论化和实际性议题。

The Institute for Provocation (IFP) is a Beijing-based workspace and think tank hosting residencies, research projects, workshops and lectures. IFP aims to be a crossway between disciplines and attitudes in the realm of art, architecture, design and urban studies. As a workspace, IFP focuses on the thinking process before or even beyond the actual creation of an artwork: collection of dramaturgical information, testing of different architectural scenarios, experimenting with new media or disciplines, and so on. With a specific interest in public space, IFP aims to provoke new narratives about the city, its spaces and locales through self-initiated interventions and research projects. Through its wide network of actors, makers and researchers in China and beyond, IFP can provide intelligence to our residents and collaborators who themselves become a part the network. Together with these, IFP is constantly investigating both theoretical and practical issues about the city and its structure, its history, its way of working as an organism.





IFP的项目负责人Max Gerthel 所设计的家具(WAM/ 万物)也是工作室的日常使用之物,圆润舒适的凳子,惬意的躺椅是这个自由而温暖空间中必不可少的存在。

WAM/万物, a furniture brand created by IFP founder Max Gerthel, is commonly seen in the working space. The comfortable round chair and the cozy lounge are essential elements embellishing this free and warm space.

About WAM

WAM/万物是建筑师/设计师Max Gerthel和乌拉创立的新家具品牌。该品牌旨在创造具有设计感,同时满足中国家具市场对高品质、创新家具需求的产品。

WAM/万物 is a new Chinese furniture brand created by architect/designer Max Gerthel and Wula Tatar. WAM/万物 is a project that has evolved from a joint interest in design and the realization of the need for good-quality and innovative design ideas for the furniture industry in China.

WAM/万物 takes its starting point in the human desire for individuality and expression. Through the process of creating furniture for individual clients and their specific needs, our goal is to build a catalog of furniture that can be reinterpreted and used again by others sharing the same values and needs. Driven by a belief in furniture as a supporter of a basic need – to sit, to eat, to work, to read, to collect things etc – WAM/万物 aims to both enforce and question these by adding an element of contraction and delight. WAM/万物 is about the unexpected; the colourful, catchy and smart.

▼ “自由职业” “Freelancer” chair


▼“无名””Untitled” chair


▼“模型”(为某艺术活动特制的椅子)”Model” ( chair for an art project)


▼(左)长桌 (中)长桌 (右)圆桌 (Left) EastWest table  (Middle) EastWest table  (Right) Turntable



why do you two make IFP as a open/free platform?

作为一个工作平台, IFP的开放性是指我们总是邀请来自不同背景、有着不同研究方向的人们来这里和我们一起工作。 同时我们定期举办的“IFP Session” 也有着非常广泛的议题,我们邀请艺术家、建筑师或从事创造性工作的人来这里,讲述他们的项目,并和大家一起进行实质性的讨论。 作为一位在IFP工作的艺术家,你将从我们的智库中找到各种信息,从而发现你在中国开展艺术研究项目的重点和线索。 而在另一方面, 我们对驻地艺术家的选择也是谨慎的,他们的申请项目应该是与中国的社会现实有足够的交集点,是相互的交流和激发,而不是单向的汲取或传授。

As a platform, IFP is open in a sense that we invite people from many different backgrounds and directions to come and stay and work here. We also have a wide range of topics discussed during our ‘IFP Sessions’, the open events we organize for artists, architects and alike to show and discuss their work. As an artist working here, you become a part of our wide network of people and resources, so it is much easier to find what you are looking for or where to start with your artistic research project. But we are actually very selective about who we host, and only those who propose projects which deal with issues that has a real connection with the reality here are invited, Also we emphasis on mutual exchange and provocation, in order to avoid the situation as giving or taking in one-way.

▼研讨会 Workshop (Bill Aitchison)


▼IFP活动 ConcreteFlux


▼ IFP活动 ConcreteFlux


▼“Iterate”艺术研讨会(2012)(Jordan Kanter & Max Gerthel) “Iterate” Workshop (2012) with Jordan Kanter and Max Gerthel


▼艺术家们在IFP庭院内表演 (Maja Bekan & Angela Serino)  group performance in IFP courtyard (Maja Bekan & Angela Serino)



Why did you choose to work in a Hutong space? Any interesting experience? Please share with us.

IFP自从2006年成立(之前叫做“动舞台”)以来搬过几次家,通常艺术家的驻地公寓和工作空间都在一个地方。我们2011年从和平里一所顶层大公寓搬出来之后,试图在胡同里找一个地方,可以适合艺术家工作与生活,同时Max也在找地方建立他的设计工作室。 我们很偶然地发现了这个空置了十年、几乎是废墟的老房子,我们花了很大的心血和很小的预算来做改造工作。这所房子本来就是这个大四合院的花厅,是男主人待客的地方,有一种古老的亲切感,所以除了工作室之外,我们也把它当做客厅,邀请我们的朋友来这里谈话、吃饭。这也是IFP Session的由来,一个没有女主人的文化沙龙,既有固定的朋友,也有不速之客。

我们不想把这个驻地工作站放在艺术区里,那里缺少真实的城市生活。我们的艺术家通常要在北京呆上几个月到半年的时间,我们更希望他们能感觉是在这个城市的中心生活工作着,如果能与历史、自然朝夕相处,那就更好了。 四合院顺应着最朴素的舒适,是一种在大树下的生活,古老的城市肌理过滤着灰尘、噪音,即使被城市美化工程、各种简陋的加建搞得不伦不类、面目全非,但这里总有一些难以被涂抹掉的旧物,让周围出奇的安宁。我们的四合院非常古老,有上了年纪的老人,丢失了记忆但还在享受阳光;也有很多平时根本看不见的邻居,一有飞吹草动就站出来嚷嚷着要给媒体打电话曝光的;还有庞大的野猫家族在他们自己的青瓦顶海洋上漫步。我们刚来的时候南锣鼓巷已经拥挤不堪,两年过去了这条胡同也布
满了游客、小吃店和商贩。老北京的胡同游和中国所有的旅游文化一样变得低劣而空洞,大家只有不停地嚼着地沟油糖精勾兑的小吃,被各种花哨无用的物品麻痹着视神经,才能忘掉烦恼吧。 经常有一些游客冒冒失失地就窜进院子来东张西望,这时候我们能感觉到自己和这四合院一样,在一群无聊的游客眼里,我们可能也就是一些异种动物而已。

IFP has moved around several times since it was started in 2006 (under a different name: Theatre In Motion) and before we found this space in 2011 it was housed in an big apartment in Hepingli. In the beginning of 2011 we were looking around in the hutongs for something that could be a workspace for artists and also a small space for Max, who wanted a studio to work on his own design projects. When we found this one, we decided on the spot that we wanted it, and to combine it as a studio for both the artists and Max. After a few months of renovation, we started using the studio in 2011. Because of the beauty and intimacy of the space, we started to invite friends and artists to our events called IFP
Sessions, which is a kind of intimate meetings between an artist/creator and the local Beijing community of artists/creators.This is a living room without the female host, with some old friends, and some unknown stangers.

We don’t want to put our residency program in the art district, which is lack of real urban life. Our artists normally would stay in Beijing for a few months or half a year, we would like to make them feel they are actually living in Beijing, if the history and nature can be with them, that will be even better. Although it is cold in the winter hot in the summer, at least we are living under the big old trees. The ancient urban fabric can acutally filtered the dust and noisy from the modern street, and no matter what the city public beauty projects, or the cheapest extension from the individuals have done to the Hutongs, there is always something old that are magically unchangable, which keep the diginity and tranquility
somewhere around us. Our courtyard is a very old one, there are some very old people who already lost their memory but still enjoy the sunlight, and there are also the invisible neighbours who jump out at any occasion of unexpected events, trying to call the media for attention, besides we have a huge family of drifting cats walking on the sea of the grey roof of the courtyard. When we moved to here, Nan LuoGu Xiang was already super crowded, after three years, our hutong is also packed with tourists, snackfood and souvenir. Like any of the tourist economy culture in China, the Beijing Hutong trip is becoming so empty and boring,  maybe that’s why people has to have their mouth full of junk food, their eyes stuck on useless but blingbling things to forget about their daily troubles. There is always some impudent tourists came to the courtyard looking for nothing, from their eyes, we suddenly realized that maybe we are just a kind of alien animals living in a historic zoo.



You mentioned in the last two answers that “only those who propose projects which deal with issues that has a real connection with the reality here are invited, also we emphasis on mutual exchange and provocation”and “the Beijing Hutong trip is becoming so empty and boring”. So what’s your impression on Chinese society? What changes do you expect to make through IFP?

对中国大社会的印象,每个人都是在管中窥豹,然后从一些力所能及的方向进行改变。我们能做的只是个人层面的交流,一种微观的社会-政治-文化交流。 我们对自己做的事情保持警惕,在生存和理想之间明确自己真正要做的事情。 其实在中国真正要改变什么是非常困难的,改变什么比获取什么困难多了。

For the general opinion of the Chinese society, it is too easy to fall into a too general conclusion. Everyone is “looking at a leopard through a bamboo tube”, and trying to do something from their own individual capacity. What we can do is a rather personal exchange, a sort of mircro social-political-culture exchange. We try to be alert of what we are doing, to make sure we are working on something that we really want to do, as we are like everyone else, living in-between the reality and the ideal. But, it is very difficult to make real change in China, trying to change something is much more difficult than trying to get something from the reality in China.


You once mentioned that “What we can do is a rather personal exchange, a sort of micro social-political-culture exchange. ” What impressed you most in the micro social-political-culture exchange, and why?

我想举一个对我来说很亲切的例子:2012年在我们工作室驻留的荷兰艺术家Serge Onnen(孙齐),他从事绘画和原影像创作。他来中国所做的研究项目,是关于如何把他的日常观察与中国传统文化(如皮影)结合起来,再将它们转换成当代艺术来讲述个人故事。皮影戏在很多人的印象里只是一些古老而模糊,不断重复却没有什么新意的表演,但孙齐的艺术创作所还原的却是每个人在童年的睡梦中,天花板和蚊帐上出现过的幻想,亲切而发人深思。那个夏天他制做一个三米高的大纸球,里面布置着他的皮影作品,这是一个关于散布在胡同里的垃圾——塑料瓶子们的故事,他钻在这个大纸球里做表演,观众自由走动,或坐或躺地观看。他分别与巫娜、宋昭、李带果在杂家、纸老虎戏剧工作室、三影堂、中央美院美术馆之夜做了数场演出,受到了广泛欢迎。

再比如,2013年,女艺术家安吉拉和女策展人玛雅组织了一个为期6个月,被称为“工作中的身体”(BODIES AT WORK)的艺术项目,她们把IFP的一个工作间改造成供自由职业者免费使用的24小时工作室,并定期邀请这些注册来使用这个空间的人们,和一些学者共同探讨做为自由职业者的种种苦乐,从社会体系、艺术自治、生活感受的各个层面来展开话题。这是一个很小的乌托邦式的艺术项目,没有展品,只是在和那些有着同样需

For example, we have hosted artists like Serge Onnen who engage with local craftsmen and traditional Chinese techniques like Shadow Theatre (皮影), transforming it into something contemporary and with a personal story. His performances around Beijing in 2012 were very well received and projected a new vision of this traditional art form among the local community.

▼ SergeOnnen皮影表演 Shadow Theatre (SergeOnnen)


我们的公共讲座“IFP Sessions”会邀请艺术家或团队进行艺术交流,谈谈他们的作品和工作,并会和一些特邀嘉宾进行讨论。国外艺术家和中国艺术家坐在一起相互交流,气氛轻松而活跃。我们为艺术家们提供了一个良好的交流互动平台,通过这种方式将工作室的艺术家及在北京短暂停留的艺术家介绍给更多的同行。


During our public talks IFP Sessions, an artist or collective is invited to give an informal talk about their work, followed by a discussion with some specially invited guests. We mix both foreign and local artists but the atmosphere is always relaxed and we often have lively discussions. It is a way for our residents and others who stay in Beijing for a short time to get introduced to other artists and creative professionals.

We also have our own project called “Sayizheng” (撒癔症) where we invite local and foreign artists to create site-specific artworks in a public space chosen by us, played out over a limited period of time (a day or an evening). Together we explore the possibilities of inserting art in public space through performance, installation and collaborations.

▼ 交流活动 Talk (Dashilar)


▼交流活动 Talk (Esther)


▼交流活动 Talk (Esther)


▼交流活动 Talk  (Left) Maja Bekan & Angela Serino  (Right) JohanZetterquist


▼”撒癔症 (2012)” (表演者:陈淑瑜) Sayzheng performance by Chen Shuyu


▼ ”撒癔症 (2013)”—临时装置 (马永峰)   Sayizheng(2013) Temporary installation by Ma Yongfeng



What’s your plans in the future?


我们正在组织以“跨学科方法”为主题的系列对话。该活动将在今日美术馆举行。参与人员有IFP艺术家((Maurice Bogaert and benandsebastian) 以及相同领域的中国艺术家。



IFP is involved in a number of interesting projects during this autumn. We will participate in Beijing Design Week with an open studio, making it possible for people to come and visit IFP and talk with the artists and us. Our resident artists will also participate in some of the forums and officialactivities of BJDW.

We are also curating a series talks in Today Art Museum under the headline “Cross-disciplinary approaches” with our artists (Maurice Bogaert and benandsebastian) coupled with Chinese artists who work in a similar way as them.

With Black Sesame (芝麻空间), our new project and exhibition space just next to IFP, we are expanding our activities to also include curatorial  projects, inviting local artists to collaborate on exhibitions and performances. We also want to expand the notion of design with a series of projects involving both artists, designers and architects, questioning common understandings of typologies of furniture, clothing, etc.

In general, IFP aims to become influential in creating more interaction between different fields and formulating the agenda for the future of art, design and public space in China.

▼黑芝麻空间 BlackSesame


▼ 黑芝麻空间 BlackSesame


▼黑芝麻空间中的活动 Activity held in BlackSesame




Max Gerthel,来自瑞典的建筑师、策展人。获得丹麦皇家美术学院(哥本哈根)的建筑硕士学位。Max 2010年来到北京。在成立IFP工作室之前,他曾就职于Spatial Practice,MAD,Maison Edouard François等事务所;并任教于华中科技大学和清华大学美术学院。

Max Gerthel is an architect and curator from Sweden who has been based in Beijing since 2010. Max earned his MA in architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in Copenhagen. Prior to working with IFP he worked as an architect for Spatial Practice, MAD Architects and Maison Edouard François among others. He has also taught at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Tsinghua University, Academy of Art & Design.

Chen Shuyu, architect and culture reseacher. From 2010 on, she is the artistic director of IFP.


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