Hutong Bubble 218’ is the renovation of a 305 sqm traditional Qing Dynasty courtyard house, and is a result of MAD’s participation in the Old City Renewal Research program that seeks to renovate several sites in Beijing’s historic city centre.
Working with the ideology that urban reactivation doesn’t necessarily require large-scale change, the design introduces a series of metallic ‘bubbles’ along a linear street, that embed themselves into the neighbourhood off Xidamochang alley. The ‘bubbles’ emerge above the hutong providing new spaces and programs that attract diverse generations, activities and resources back into these neglected communities. While they seem foreign in their context, their smooth mirrored surfaces reflect the surrounding ancient buildings, trees and sky, blending into the environment. Instead of interrupting the existing urban fabric, the old and new complement one another.
MAD’s scheme not only realises a new construction, but also restores the architectural aesthetic of the courtyard building to its original glory. The temperament of the old Beijing courtyard is retained through the use of gray bricks, which have come to define hutong building constructions. The glazing along the street front has been replaced with single transparent glass, maximising the amount of natural light that floods the interior. From here, no one suspects the existence of the bubbles beyond.
Completed in late 2017, ‘Hutong Bubble 218’ demonstrates how small-scale artistic freehand interventions can revitalize a community, creating a dialogue between old and new that expresses how we imagine carrying the history of Beijing’s hutongs into the future.
Credited: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano