As urban planning develops in Beijing, urban renewal gradually spreads from the center to the suburban Beizhuang Town. The project site was originally a garment manufacturing factory covering an area of 5,000 sqm in Beizhuang Town. We have retained the original layout of factory buildings, and renovated it into a youth activity center which is comprised of youth education camps along with classroom, restaurant, conference room, and accommodations. The site is divided into two courtyards. The northern one is featured by a large one-story single-span factory building with a bent structure. In the southern one there are small red brick buildings with timber trusses and brick bearing walls. Considering the structural characteristics of the original fabrics, we concentrated the education camps, conference rooms and restaurants in the northern area, and accommodations in the southern one.
The old plant mainly consisted of two sections. The north area accommodated a one-storey single-span workshop with a bent structure, while the south zone was composed of red brick buildings that featured wooden roof trusses and brick bearing walls, including a warehouse, a canteen and dormitories. Based on the scales and structural characteristics of the existing buildings, we set children's discovery center, multifunctional hall, restaurant and other functions that require large-span space in the north zone, while the south area was repurposed into accommodations.
How to reactivate such an old industrial site without rich heritage and distinctive spatial features? In response to various limitations and functional demands, different renovation strategies were adopted for the 12 single buildings. As opposed to setting a unified style for those buildings, we put emphasis on the relationship between individual buildings, the whole architectural complex and its surroundings. The site is surrounded by factories and mountains. During renovation, we created friendly spatial scales, and inserted a series of structures such as walkway, corridor, small square and transitional yard to link the north zone' activity space with accommodations in the south area and to produce continuous, three-dimensional landscape experiences.
Abstract geometric components were applied to landscape design, to create a surreal setting for children, who are encouraged to explore possibilities of geometric shapes, conceive stories of adventure, play and have fun in various ways.
The existing pavement in the north courtyard was covered by hard concrete bricks. We embedded a circular slope and a steel-grid platform into the courtyard, to build a large entertainment installation. It connects the camp area and the restaurant's rooftop terrace on west and east sides, while allowing kids to run and play at different heights. The platform provides shade for the lawn and activities beneath, which helps strengthen a dramatic feeling. Given the site's atmosphere and textures of building facades, we chose recycled red bricks and concrete bricks as main paving materials, which are complemented by a rubber running track, together producing playful spaces where kids can run and jump freely.
In order to liberate children's perception and imagination, we abandoned conventional forms as conceiving the circular walkway's structures and the spatial design. Slanting columns were chosen to support the suspended walkway, forming an undulating pattern that resembles "sine waves" in mathematics. Besides, the double-helix structure of the circle is endowed with a precise proportional relationship. In this way, the space offers alternating experiences, either dynamic or static. Moreover, the fire reservoir outlet at the middle of the lawn was designed into a wedge-shaped optical pavilion, which blends the blue sky into the lawn area. The building facades are embellished with geometric color blocks and lines, with a view to evoking kids' imagination and stimulating them to interact and explore the distinctive venue. We hope this place can help strengthen kids' sensory perception of nature. As running and playing on the rooftop, they're embraced by sky and mountains nearby.
The existing south courtyard was paved with asphalt, with wild artemisia vigorously growing from cracks on the ground. To avoid adding artificial landscape too "consciously", we scattered plant clusters that naturally grow at staggering heights to build a garden. We selected perennial plants that are common in Northern China to present changing scenes throughout the year. We wish the garden can help children to discover the authentic beauty of nature, observe varying states of plants, either swaying in the wind, embracing sunshine or withering... The trampoline in the garden is like a "black hole", attracting both adults and kids.
Between the north and south courtyards, we made use of the existing height difference to create a flowing waterscape, where a capsule-like pavilion was inserted to connect accommodations, restaurant and the north courtyard. It's like a gentle pause in the spatial rhythm. Considering the striking geometric forms and monotonous texture of surrounding buildings, we created a "threshold zone" to integrate into the environment. The pavilion floats on water surface, and its perforated metal screens on two sides reveal moire patterns when viewed from a certain distance. The view becomes blurred, presenting ethereal and dynamic visual effects. The perforated metal panels sometimes filter light and brighten the space, and sometimes refract, distort the light.
The Youth Activity Center in the North District
The northern most original brick and reinforced concrete building on the site had few openings, resulting in poor lighting, which did not meet the requirements for contemporary use. Therefore, we removed the original building in the north and placed a row of entrance lobby, which is a single-sided cantilevered structure in the shape of umbrella ribs. It eases the pressure of the mass of the 70-meter-long and 7-meter-high factory building on the street entrance, as well as people's experience of transition from the north square to the Youth Activity Center. The interior of the lobby is made up of seven inscribing semi-circular glass boxes, which function as the main entrance to the Youth Activity Center, the cafe area and the concept store of creative items, like continuous small settlements. We transformed a series of phenomena such as optical transparency, reflection and refraction into spatial experiences of physics. The continuous glass surface reflects the surrounding environment, making the structure lighter, and extending the view to other dimensions.
The potential of the internal space of the Youth Activity Center is explored by restructuring the relationship between the exhibition space and the exhibits, with attempts to create a sense of borderlessness for games. It is our hope to create a mixed-age environment for children aged 0-7 to play and learn together. The 7-meter clear height of the original factory space is divided into active and quiet functions according to floor levels, allowing children to enjoy physical games in a circular circulation on the ground floor. At the end of the mezzanine is set up an area for longer activities of creative and intellectual games and teaching. In order to enable children to interact with the space during their activities, we have taken the landscape staircase as the central stage in the layout of the exhibition items, and arranged the steel ramp and the curved staircase along the longitudinal direction of the factory space. The design has made good use of the gap at the bottom of the staircase and created a three-dimensional gaming area with a slide, where a free path brings out the possibility of various sports. For the partition of the exhibition items, free-form surfaces are used to encourage expansion and interaction between the body and the space. The curved mesh wall and the net across different floors allow children to crawl among the gaps.
Restaurant and Multifunctional Room in the North District
The factory on the east side of the site is close to the country road. Larger rooms such as the multifunctional room, restaurant and kitchen that require business to the public are arranged here. In order to solve the problem of poor lighting and thermal performance in the original factory that is too deep, we removed the original blockboard roof, repaired and reinforced the original wall that is only 5.4 meters high, and added a second floor of steel structure. We reserved an open-air courtyard at the diagonal position in the previous plan, and retained the original concrete bent structure to continue the sense of order in the original components. Temporally, the original "inside" and the current "outside" overlap in the same space. The transmission of light, the sequence of the original walls, and the juxtaposition of the old and new are all our focuses. A block of foyer and bathroom is inserted between the two factory buildings, which separates the northern courtyard from the external road, while allowing the sight of the courtyard to be directly connected with the distant mountains. Finally, we set up a landscape bridge on top of the second floor where meeting and catering space is located. The steel grille floor and the railing made of metal cable network suggest a continuation of the circular walkway, guiding people's activities towards the roof terrace.
Hostel Reception Hall in the South District
The original structural system of the southern building complex, with a north-south layout, was a brick load-bearing wall and wooden truss roof. The original function was dormitory and canteen. Based on the original building structure and layout, we added a water supply and drainage system, and improved the thermal performance in the buildings, which were converted into guestrooms.
We transformed the structural columns and steel components of the abandoned carport into the porch of the main entrance to the hostel, and retained the existing cracked asphalt ground at the entrance of the site. It is from these cracks that we look forward to grass and flowers budding in spring.
The abandoned canteen in the factory has been transformed into the hostel's reception hall. We retained the mottled green paint wall skirt and fair-faced concrete prefabricated roof in the original building, and inserted stainless steel sanitary and storage modules, fair-faced concrete bar counters and stainless steel booths. The design strategy of combining exquisite workmanship with the mottled texture of the internal surface in the existing building, not only allows the new and old elements to coexist harmoniously without compromising their authenticity, but also creates a new kind of openness and richness in their interplay. "Emptiness" without functional limitation means "division of space". The extremely thin thermally broken steel windows and doors allow maximum light and landscape to "flow" into the room, which also strengthen the proportional relationship between the openings and the wall.
Green House in the South District
We had the opportunity to redesign the small warehouse as a green house at the end of the main courtyard in the south district. It is functionally divided into a semi-enclosed lounge centered on the fireplace, and an open activity area around the conference table. An extension of the main structural beams brings the sky and the courtyard into the activity area, and the floor is raised by 50 cm to enhance the sense of place of the activity area, which creates a subtle visual relationship with the south courtyard. Some of the steel beams supporting the roof stand on small steel pillars, so that the steel beam structure is raised by 30 cm from the brick load-bearing wall. The gap between the roof and the wall is glazed as much as possible to create a sense of transparency and suspension. This separation can be felt from the interior. On entering or leaving the building, people can feel the tension between lightness and heaviness from the profile steel roof and red brick wall. Between the strong volume and the open and bright interior is created a suspended relationship. The "openness" of the green house and the "non-openness" of the reception center, where people stay or pass between the two, constitute another close-up spatial correspondence.
Guestrooms in the South District
In order to echo the textures and scales of the existing buildings within the site, we have used fair-faced brick walls to separate the internal space. For the external courtyard walls and paving between each guestroom, fair-faced red bricks, all of which are recycled from nearby demolished villages, are also employed. From the hostel's main entrance to the guestroom area, we used low walls, courtyards and vegetation to create a discrete but continuous path for outdoor experience, where privacy and publicness are subtly connected and distinguished.
The renovated Old Garment Factory in Miyun, Beijing accommodates our visions and expectations for children's growth everyday. The main actors of the new space are the people and families who come here. Their interaction with the buildings evokes the potential of life in the new space. This is the conversion's vitality that moves people. The diverse and open spatial structure allows for more possibilities for subsequent use, which always evolves with time.