Over seven hundred years ago, a 50 meters-tall giant white Pagoda with its Nepal Buddhist temple – Baitasi - was built in ancient Beijing. Ever since then this temple and pagoda have merged into the surrounding hutongs and courtyards living with religious ceremonies and activities and eventually became part of the historical context for contemporary Beijing. This giant white volume brings dynamic magnetism into the typical hutong fabric and courtyard life and is the most important context in our design for converting a 2-story cement residential building into a hutong gallery in the Baitasi area. Most of the cement residential buildings in this area were built after 1980s, when some local residents tore down courtyards to larger living area and a modern lifestyle. Cement block buildings have become a common typology with a larger scale than courtyards in hutong fabric. A conversion from residential into a public program including a gallery and three artist residencies will host community exhibitions and facilitate artists living and working in Baitasi hutong area, introduce new elements to integrate with local community, and bring a new transforming process into the region.
Under the hutong preservation regulations, the building volume will remain intact, the original structure and layout will be reorganized to fit in new programs that include a double height gallery facing north, a salon and office on ground level and artist rooms above. In order to achieve sufficient light quality, a system of vertical voids is inserted into this dense block. Two corner yards are brought back for light and air, open to the sky and neighbor’s tree canopy, as well as reintroducing traditional the courtyard context. Skylights peeling off from the roof or floor corners are another light strategy. Both corner yards and skylights are articulated with curve segments, indicating a continuous circulation. This is also a reflection of the experience when walking in the Baitasi hutong area. The visual of the pagoda is cut on and off by hutong scale and orientation. The curve fragments of form and light in this white interior bring the memory of pagoda into the dark grey cement block. The rooftop is open up as a public platform with a plant pavilion configured from vertical voids. The articulation of the plant pavilion will add in another layer into hutong skyline of cables and tree canopies.
The building is a connection of historical context with future programs and will provide new possibilities into the hutong community life.