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Blueprint Beijing

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A stroll around the vast but wonderful capital of the Middle Kingdom will reveal perfect harmony between both old and new in terms of buildings and architecture. From old, but winding hutong streets to the humorously iconic glass CCTV building, also half-jokingly known to locals as the ‘Big Pants’ building – it cannot be denied that Beijing is home to some of the most interesting architectural structures in the country. This month, we look to some of the top architectural design studios in Beijing, to get a sneak peek into what goes on behind closed doors when some of the more talented architects in the city get creative with blueprints in Bejing.


MAD Architects
 
 
Don’t let the name of this architect studio fool you, the amazing work of these creative minds may come from sparks of madness, but the results are undoubtedly incredible. Commissioned in 2010 and completed in 2015, MAD Architects are the geniuses behind the beautiful Harbin Opera House (鍝堝皵婊ㄦ瓕鍓ч櫌) – a structure which is inspired by the contrast of the northern city’s untamed wilderness and freezing cold winter climate. The cultural building blends nature and the physical topography of the area, as if sculpted by wind and water. 
 
Contributing to Beijing’s unique architectural landscape, MAD Architects are also the minds behind the Hutong Bubble 32. In ultimate fashion, MAD Architects have added modern and futuristic additions to the traditional hutongs of Beijing. It is said that these bubbles reflect and represent the future of the hutongs. Injecting new life into the urban fabric, these bubbles act like magnets for attracting new thinking, new people and new resources to activate the entire neighbourhood. Rather than appear as unexpected additions, they work in symbiosis with the traditional architecture. 
 

ZAO / standardarchitecture (鏍囧噯钀ラ), led by Zhang Ke
 
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Speaking of revitalizing the old hutong spaces, ZAO architects have also embarked on renewal plans in a contrasting way with the Micro Hutong Renewal project. ZAO’s project aims to show that these old spaces can be transformed to serve the community but establishing co-working spaces, as well as a place for children to learn and play.
 
 
The first project involved the transformation of Cha'er Hutong, a 300-400 year-old hutong near Tiananmen Square. Known locally as a da-za-yuan. But it was adapted into residences in the 1950s, with each family adding its own ad-hoc kitchen in the courtyard.
 
The Cha'er Hutong project was completed two years ago as part of the 2014 edition of Beijing Design Week and is currently also on show as part of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.
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Vector Architects (鐩村悜寤虹瓚)
 
As most artsy inclined individuals would instantly assume, the world of architects and architecture in Beijing clearly has a stake in the capital’s cultural centre and art district – 798. Vector Architects have indeed also worked their magic on the entrance of M WOODS, an independent not-for-profit contemporary art museum located in Chaoyang District. Tasked with improving visitor experience and establishing a strong visual identity for the building, Vector Architects turned to mesh material to give the art museum some real character. 
 
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鏈ㄦ湪缇庢湳棣嗗叆鍙f敼閫狅紝798锛屽寳浜琈 WOODS Entrance Revitalization, 798, Beijing
 
Choosing lightweight iron wire mesh, the entire revitalisation project from design to construction was complete in just 40 days. "Our primary strategy is not to reform the exiting facade, but to add a layer of translucency on it," said the Studio. "Hence people are able to sense the old when they experience the new, and read the historical information of the city," they added.
 
So next time you take a trip to Beijing, look out for the architectural contrast between old and new, the historical and the developing modern world around you. Value the significant thought of some of the country’s most talented architects for constructing its current day Beijing blueprint.
 
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