It is an architectural project whose process is absolutely not shaping out a building by responding all the pre-existing site conditions as architects normally do in an well-regulated urban plot. Here, in this innocent piece of land untouched by the outside rules, there was no so many reliable conditions that any architect could ensure his or her response still making sense overnight. Things change swiftly. Among these unruled builders, area, light, view, and privacy were in a forever shortage. How to maximise the spatial quality of one property without offending the tightly attached neighbours? By asking and giving an answer to that, the architect acted as a gardener. The challenge is not nurturing a single brilliant flower, but managing a cooperative micro-environment.
In periphery of Beijing, there is an isolated plot having many warehouses belonged to one company. Later on, the area was transformed into a creative industry park. The block was occupied by two lines of vaulted ceiling warehouse. Single space, single owner, single function, and long-term ownership. Many things got changed after the regeneration: Space subdivided for leasing, several tenants with diverse background, mixed use, and short-term rental. A group of young entrepreneurs rented a 300 m² space to build their new recording studio.
After the initial years running business in an apartment, they finally got the budget of creating a real working place. The lease lasts for five years. Their plan is spending one year of completing the construction and enjoying area doubled office for four years. Moreover, they have the privilege of extending contract when the current one is due. They plan to stay here for 15 years. They’ve got many different neighbours, but somehow got their properties around the same period. Since they found the old roof was leaking, they torn it down by themselves before coming to any professional designer. Then they came to the architect, describing the project as an interior design of a 600m² office. The architect was also informed that the office must look cool beside the idea of general function distribution.
When they went to site together, the architect understood it was in fact an architecture design: No roof, no first floor at all and ground floor left only columns and beams along the boundary walls. Suddenly the architect realized how tight the budget was. At the same time, two of their neighbours torn down their roofs as well. First idea, but neighbours went faster. Second idea didn't work both for young entrepreneurs and property manager. Final idea. When the additional floor slab was completed, they found beautiful trees on the east side. Therefore openings on east facade were created. For now, the building looks like this.
The capacity of current structure was made bigger than the current needs, in keeping the potential of adding on the roof in the future. "We like the courtyard. It’s cozy. We used to BBQ there. Our neighbours soon learnt to do the same thing. Finally, it was banned by the nervous property manager. Now, we do hot pot." "It is bright upstairs! We can relax very well there after working hard in the recording room." "Many of our guests are fond of the bright office.” "Cycling is our passion. Not only having the cool parking place besides the entrance, we use our courtyard to wash and ride bicycle as well."
The design has not finished yet! Although the eastern neighbour should be relatively stable in next two years (that's why we bravely opened windows on their side.), young entrepreneurs still felt obliged to ensure the view towards tree. Therefore, a meeting room on top of the roof is going to be built next year. Despite of that, the architect is thinking of offering free consulting service to neighbours. He believes that the effort could effectively increase the spatial quality of crowding together, further calm down the war of adding among neighbours.
design team: cao pu + Fanfushengshe ＋ wang yifan
architecture consultant: cao pu archicao.com/
structural engineer: li niannian
electricity consultant: wang pei
hvac consultant: zhao bin
acoustic consultant: guo ming
project area: 600 m²
design date: 06/2013－2014
construction date: 10/2013－09/2014
photography: Zhang Zheming
story telling: Claude Verett