We at RenChi Space are excited to see Hutong Children’s Library and Art Center selected as one of the winners of this prestigious award. It transformed a crowded and messy Hutong courtyard into a refreshing and vibrant community space, envisioning a new use of traditional housing units at the dense core of modern metropolitan. See all winners of Aga Khan Award for Architecture below:
The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (AKDN), the most prestigious award of the architecture world, has announced the winners of 2014-2016 Cycle today in a ceremony in Abu Dhabi. The 6 selected projects highlight their architectural and cultural importance to the Muslim world including Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Dhaka by Marina Tabassum, Friendship Centre in Gaibandha by Kashef Chowdhury / URBANA, and Superkilen in Copenhagen by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Topotek 1 and Superflex.The other 3 winning projects include Hutong Children’s Library and Art Centre in Beijing by ZAO / standardarchitecture / Zhang Ke, Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge in Tehran by Diba Tensile Architecture / Leila Araghian, Alireza Behzadi and Issam Fares Institute in Beirut by Zaha Hadid Architects.
A children’s library selected for its embodiment of contemporary life in the traditional courtyard residences of Beijing’s Hutongs. The hutongs of Beijing are fast disappearing. The residential compounds, with their layering of spaces and multiple courtyards, are often viewed as messy and insalubrious – almost as slums. If they find a place in the modern city, it is often in sanitized form, as a tourist attraction, filled with boutiques. The attempt to find a new use for this traditional building form – one that would benefit the local community – motivated this proposal for a space that would serve both the pupils from the nearby primary school and the hutong’s remaining, mostly elderly, residents. Besides a children’s library and exhibition space, the centre hosts a local handicrafts studio and classes in painting and dance.
Image above: Under a big Chinese scholar tree, one of the former kitchens was redesigned into a 6m² mini art space made from traditional bluish grey brick, with accessible roof. Image © AKTC / Su Shengliang, ZAO, standardarchitecture
Image above: View from the roof to the courtyard, once a typical “Da-Za-Yuan”-big messy courtyard- the architects redesigned, renovated and reused the informal add-on structures instead of eliminating them like most recent renovation practices. Image © AKTC / Su Shengliang, ZAO, standardarchitecture
Image above: Steel panels were used as structure and only lightweight steel frames were laid simply on the ground, to form a “floating” foundation in order to protect the roots of the old tree. Image © AKTC / Su Shengliang, ZAO, standardarchitecture
Image above: The 9m² children’s public library built of concrete mixed with Chinese ink was inserted underneath the pitched roof of an existing building. Image © AKTC / Su Shengliang, ZAO, standardarchitecture
Key to the design was the renovation and reuse of existing elements in the courtyard, which included informal add-on structures, such as kitchens. The massing follows the conditions found at the site, and the height of the boxes is dictated by the height of the roof around them. Gathering together all the masses and activities is a giant scholar tree, perhaps 600 years old – as old as the courtyard itself.
Image sources: World Architecture and 《建筑技艺》杂志