北京二环内的老城胡同区是一片独特的城市区块，平坦且密集，被20多米宽的高架环路以及尺度瞬间扩大的二环外现代化高楼与街区所围绕。工作室的基地位于东城区北边，近热闹的北锣鼓巷，周遭大多为住家， 四合院、杂院与四至六层老楼房为邻，零星小商铺 散布其中。北京的街道为方正布局，不过一旦进入胡同，街道宽度缩小至3-5m甚至更窄，曲折有机，是由人的身体和活动所衍生出来的城市尺度与纹理。
Hutongs of the old Beijing are deemed as an authentic urban zone. Located within the second ring, this flat and intensive maze of alleyways and courtyards is surrounded by 20-metre-wide elevated expressways, ever-expanding skyscrapers and modern blocks. MINOR lab is situated in north Dongcheng District, close to the bustling Beiluogu Xiang. Quadrangle courtyards (Siheyuan), tenement yards(Zayuan), old residences of 4 to 6 storeys and scattered stores constitute the entire neighborhood. The layout of streets in Beijing are normally upright and square, whereas the width of alleyways reduces to 3 to 5 metres or an even narrower scale. The zigzag of Hutong lanes appears naturally due to human scale and their interactions, as the measurement and vein of the city.
▼胡同视角，左侧为入口，hutong view, the entrance at the left©王艺祺
In the morning and on the way to the studio, once turning into the Hutong from the main street, we would be welcome by a quotidian yet lively scene: neighbors with baskets shopping from peddlers and a slow traffic moving through a busy lane. The scent in the air smells familiar too: home cooking in the kitchen, breakfast stalls, public restrooms and seasonal humidity… As for the sound, it is equally vivid: neighbors’ chatting, peddlers’selling stuffs, passengers’ arguing…Different dialects, rustling leaves, singling birds and insects compose an intriguing symphony.
▼由院子看向入口，view from courtyard to entrance ©陈颢
合院基地长13.5米、宽9.5米 ，推开木头门是由青砖墙围合的方正空间，两棵高大的银杏树立于其中，屋顶与银杏树下是一片独立的世界，宁静却仍在胡同的节奏里。 我们在2017年的夏天遇见这个合院，当时房东正在重建木结构、青砖墙、灰瓦屋顶， 在一连串的沟通后我们决定租下这里，接手设计与改造，在这里扎根建立我们“工作的世界”。
The courtyard that has been transformed to MINOR lab is a 13.5 by 9.5 metres rectangular site. When the wooden door is pushed open, a square space enclosed by grey brick walls presents itself. Two grand ginkgo trees stand in the yard – a unique space is created underneath the trees and on the rooftop, tranquil yet still immersed in the beats of Hutong. We came across this courtyard in the summer of 2017; back then, the landlord was reconstructing the wooden structure, grey brick walls and grey roof tiles. After rounds of communication, we decided to rent, redesign and transform the whole yard so that we could take root and build our own world of making architecture.
▼由南向北看院子，courtyard view from south to north©陈颢
▼院子中的两棵银杏树，courtyard with two ginko trees©陈颢
透过建筑，产生对话|Communicate via architecture
Historically speaking, Beijing as an imperial city, has been established on the core basis of imperialization. The axes, Forbidden City and even the red city walls represented the absolute existence of imperial authority. Within such a complex institution of power and functionalities, Hutongs took shape gradually and became venues for the mass. Quadrangle courtyards on both sides of Hutongs were neighbors to each other. Behind the walls, every courtyard stood for a particular family space; and when they were aligned together by walls, all of them started to coexist and co-live on top of Beijing’s unique disposition.
▼由厨房看向院子和咖啡图书室，view from kitchen to courtyard and café library©陈颢
▼咖啡图书室，café library space©陈颢
In the course of modernization, the collapse and reconstruction of order has triggered massive changes to Hutongs and quadrangle courtyards in Beijing. As a result, after the upheaval, demographics, population density and the social structure have made it challenging to define quadrangle courtyards. The outline of Hutongs has been retained, however, the scenic substances behind the walls of Hutong courtyards have been fragmented in constant tearing down and reconstruction.What has not changed for Hutongs, whether it is within or outside the walls, is that the community is still living their lives and sticking to their lifestyle in a timeless manner. Yet for us, we leverage the form of an architectural studio to open up a courtyard, wipe away the boundaries, and create a space for communication in Hutongs.
▼由南向北看院子（客房门打开），courtyard and guestroom (door opened)©陈颢
▼由咖啡图书室看向客房，view from café library to guestroom©陈颢
▼由入口看向客房，view from entrance to guestroom©陈颢
屋顶之下，流动的生活|Flowing life under the roof
Walls on either side of the Hutong prevent direct sunlight from getting inside, which can be seen as a boundary between public and private venues. Within the walls remains an inward and enclosed space, however, the yard resembles a vast container, letting in sky, wind, sunlight, air and sound. The crowns of the two grand ginkgo trees are the flowing roof in the open air, overlapping layers of grey tiles.The exterior space under the trees connects to the interior one underneath the four roofs, floating and exchanging in a continuous way.
▼从客房看向咖啡图书室， view from guestroom to café library©王艺祺
工作室位于北房，是合院里最大的室内空间，和院子的接口是一道透明的长型空间而非单纯的立面，由金属薄墙与透明玻璃、厚透明树脂板构成的虚空间，由入口侧起分别是展示窗、推拉门入口与半室外透明展间。 立面展现不同表面处理的金属反射与漫反射，树脂板与玻璃不同的透明性。 不仅为室内提供充足自然光，整道长型空间彷佛是光的载体，交互映像着室内外风景，虚化了室内外边界，光线与风景因为水平向的延伸，即使在室内也像是大树下工作。 半室外透明展间与院子之间是由13片平行斜置的25mm厚透明树脂板间隔，在这个宽700mm的空间之内，有微风、光影、以及透明树脂板的厚度所呈现的如晶体般的表现性，和其抛光表面细微的反射， 它是通透的界面、也是展品。除平时展示工作模型，展间也不定期举办展览。
The main room in the north of the courtyard is the office space, the biggest indoor space. What connects itself and the yard is a transparent strip of space, instead of a mere façade. This virtual space is made of a metal thin wall, transparent glass and thick acrylic boards. From the entrance of the courtyard, a showcase window, a sliding door and a semi-outdoor and transparent exhibition space appear in proper order. The façade demonstrates reflections and diffused reflections of several processed metal materials, as well as different degrees of transparency relatively by acrylic boards and glass. Not only the façade transmits enough daylight, but also the strip space functions as a carrier of light. It mirrors indoor and outdoor views, blurs the boundary between the two spaces – daylight and views extend horizontally and working indoors feels like sitting under the trees. The semi-outdoor exhibition space is separated from the yard with 13 25-millimetre-thick acrylic boards, placed in an inclined yet parallel manner. Within the 700-millimetre-wide space, one may feel the breeze, the light and shadow, the crystal presence and subtle reflection of the boards. The space is clear and transparent; actually, it is an exhibit itself. Apart from displaying models, it also holds exhibitions from time to time.
▼由办公空间看向院子，view from office space to courtyard©陈颢
院子另一侧，从东、南至西分别为客房、卫浴、厨房和咖啡图书室。在有限的院子空间里，我们最小限度地植入一层由钢结构、玻璃与阳光板构成的轻质半透明界面空间， 把各功能空间整合在一起， 是廊子也是空间的延伸，让院子透过半透明界面或玻璃推拉门 ，漫延至有限的室内。 所使用的阳光板可以带来必要的私密性， 和一定的保温隔热，也柔化了进入室内的自然光， 并随着日光树影变化着丰富的室内风景。
The other side of the courtyard houses a guest room (East), a bathroom (Southeast), a kitchen (Southwest), a café/mini-library (West). In the limited courtyard space, we have modestly imbedded a light and translucent interface made of steel frame, glass and polycarbonate panel. It combines the functional spaces and makes the aisle an extension to the courtyard space, which permeates the limited indoor space through the translucent interface or glass sliding door. The polycarbonate panel we have used guarantees proper privacy and thermal insulation, and softens the natural light indoor. It also varies the indoor scene with the changing sunlight and shade.
▼轻质半透明界面空间，light and translucent interface
In terms of usage, it is much more than just a studio for daily work. By hosting weekend public events and exhibition and inviting artist over, we are sharing the courtyard space with the city. During this process, we learn to keep exclusive memories of the courtyard.
▼摄影展览活动，photography exhibition activity©Masa
生活的实验场，人、物件和自然组成的城市|The lab of life & an organic city of people, objects and nature
We have chosen some common materials and leveraged simple craftsmanship in Hutongs. In this way, we have tried to harmonize new things and the initial scene and to create some new meanings. The birth of architecture or the evolution of a city is backed by a well-defined infrastructure. Rather than just a workplace, this courtyard serves as a laboratory for us. We treat every object, tool, plant and little animal with curiosity while working, exchanging, cooking, resting and walking around. By doing this, we are discovering how to place and interact with them properly. We are gradually learning how to create our own approach under the roof, and interpret it in our works and even conversations. These nuanced practices and observations are part of the architecture, and also clues depicting the memory of a city.
▼由屋顶看向院子（秋天），view from roof top to the courtyard (in autumn)©王艺祺
▼重建前状态，the original condition before rebuilt©张翔宇
业主及设计方： 即作建筑 MINOR lab
Location: Dongcheng District, Beijing
Client and designer: MINOR Lab
Design team: Liu Chen, Wang Yi-Chi, Yeh Ping-Chen
Construction team: Beijing Hua Te
Floor area: 115㎡
Construction materials: galvanized steel, stainless steel, acrylic board, plywood, OSB, polycarbonate sheet, glass
Project period: 2017.6-2017.9
Photographer: Chen Hao, Wang Yi-Chi，Liu Chen , Zhao Dan, Yeh Ping-Chen, Zhang Xiang-Yu，masa