设计单位 中国建筑设计研究院有限公司 一合建筑
This small courtyard located near the Drum Tower in Beijing is not a typical classic courtyard, but a compound courtyard lacking historical characteristics. However, its special location and the great contrast between the inside and the outside after the rectification and renovation of the Gulou West Street make it a certain representative in the current context of urban renewal. We try to depict the evolution of the city with the transformation of a small courtyard, constructing the relationship between the smallest unit and the overall structure.
The courtyard renovation project is only over 300 square meters, but it is particularly special among the series of conservation and renewal practices of Beijing Old City that United Design participates in, and also poses a challenge to us:
First, as the smallest and basic unit of the old city, the courtyard has practical significance, universality and representation for the renewal of the courtyard and the future state of the old City. Second, No. 33 Yard is located in the core of the old city, with the strong historical ambience of the surrounding, forming a strong tension between the city's commemorative and the street's daily life. Third, how to improve and enhance the quality of the courtyard space under strict restrictive conditions -- the existing street facades can’t be rebuilt, the courtyard space should be basically retained, and can’t be demolished.
▲ 项目视频 ©李季
The Gulou (Drum Tower) is very familiar to citizens living in Beijing, and its importance in the old city is self-evident. The project is located at the intersection of Gulou West Street and old Gulou Street, less than 200m away from Gulou.
In 2017, Beijing Xicheng District put forward the “three-year revival plan” of Gulou West Street, which was designed by the team of Beijing Institute of Architectural Design. Both sides of the street interface and urban space node were renovated and promoted. Located at the beginning of Gulou West Street, the street facade of Gulou West Courtyard 33 has undergone continuous changes as a result.
In the past three years, No. 33 Gulou West Courtyard has been the engineering headquarters of the street renewal. With the completion of the street renewal work, the original temporary office has also met with new opportunities and challenges. In the street corner outside the courtyard wall, the green space originally enclosed by fences has been transformed into a corner garden in the renovation process, which is loved by the children and the elderly in the surrounding community. We’ll pass by here every time we go to the site, and feel the significance of street renewal work and the progress of the city.
On the west side of the corner garden, against the backdrop of a newly built wall, was Courtyard No. 33, a crude logistics compound of two bungalows. It was only when we first surveyed the site that we realized that the previous renovation work was still on the street surface facade and that the quality of the public space environment did not extend to the inside courtyard. When we understand the design tasks and conditions, confusion ensues. Externally, it is obvious that the street facade, which has just been renovated with the renewal of the street, cannot be changed any more and should be positively responded to as a basis. Internally, the existing bungalow cannot be demolished or extended, and the current outline and height should be maintained. So what should we design?
Various restrictions made us realize that the usual design ideas based on form and space may not be suitable for this courtyard. This time, we need to start the design from the city and community: what benefits can this small courtyard bring to the community? What new vitality could it bring to this existing nice little corner? How to provide more convenience to community residents? Fortunately, the renovation of the courtyard is a government-led project, and the owner also hopes that the courtyard can be integrated into the community life with a brand new apperance, which also gives us the motivation to have the idea based on the community.
Our first thought was to create a community space, which not only provides activities for the surrounding residents, but also establishes the connection between the external corner garden and the internal courtyard, turning the enclosed courtyard into a public place that serves the community and integrates into the community. Combines the community library into a cafe, improves the environment of the corner garden, and creates a vivid scene of urban public life at the foot of the Gulou (Drum Tower). At the same time, the design gradually develops from the old town, street and neighborhood issues.
There is no perceptual connection between the original interior space and the yard, so we ignore the original room boundary and regard the room and the yard as a whole. Through the analysis of the relationship between the city and the site, the whole site is divided into three layers: the first layer is adjacent to Gulou West Street, which needs to deal with the relationship with the street; The second layer responds to the historical ambience of the old city, and also implies a dialogue with the Drum Tower. The third layer needs to respond to the neighborhood.
Corresponding to the three layers, we try to break the original single courtyard into three types of courtyard: Bian Yuan, He Yuan and Ya Yuan through three different ways: embedding, transplantation and evacuation. We also choose different approaches in terms of form language and materials to respond to specific problems respectively.
The original courtyard was shabby and rough, without any characteristic associated with the old city. Combined with the policy of “changing flat roof into pitched roof” in the old city, we transplanted a fragment of the traditional Beijing quadrangle courtyard, and changed the east bungalow into a paraboloid roof. Seen from a distance, this He Yuan segment is a response to the traditional surrounding urban landscape, while from up close, it is a friendly dialogue with the surrounding courtyard neighborhood and the corner garden. Although it’s only a fragment, but the traditional wooden structure of gray bricks and gray-green tiles with paraboloid roof makes the small courtyard full of the character of old city life.
In the corner of the He Yuan, we wanted to plant a tree, but due to the problem of underground pipeline laying, we could only pad the soil on the existing foundation, so we used grey brick to build a stacked platform in the corner of the yard, which not only solved the problem of soil depth, but also took advantage of the change of height to lead the enclosed courtyard space to the open roof platform. A persimmon tree was eventually planted, and a brick terrace under the shade became a resting nook.
Although the house has been restored to traditional fragments, modern life is still necessary, and people want to have new views to experience the city. If the original bungalow roof can be used well, it will be very rare near the drum tower. We replaced part of the flat roof of the original bungalow on the west side with a roof deck for people to go upstairs. Walking on the platform along the grey brick wall on the north side of the courtyard, people's sight is liberated from the enclosed space of the courtyard, and the fragment of the He Yuan becomes the foreground of coordinating the traditional area. The bell and drum towers and the outline of the old city appear on the paraboloid roof, and the roof platform becomes a place for residents to take photos.
On the west side of the bungalow, an eaves gallery is added to become the transition between indoor and outdoor space. The wooden frame under the eave is interspersed into the interior and separated from the original concrete beam to form the interspersed construction relationship. At the same time, the boundary of the He Yuan is embedded into the surrounding texture, with both adjacent walls and gaps between the courtyard and the adjacent courtyard. These gaps express some tension between the traditional courtyard. We opened the originally closed wall along the gap and set up a high window under the cornice, which not only brings in a ray of sunshine, but also makes people realize the existence of the neighborhood and becomes a reminder of the characteristics of the old city.
In the interface of the courtyard adjacent to the corner garden, we originally hoped to adopt an open way to establish a direct and close connection between the courtyard and the urban public space. However, due to the restrictions of street policies, the courtyard wall here can only remain closed at present. However, we still insist on reserving the possibility of opening in the future -- the building interface is separated from the courtyard wall and set as a narrow courtyard of bamboo forest, and the library has a long window facing the narrow courtyard, so as to improve the lighting inside the library and prepare for the opening of the interface in the future.
We embedded a white box behind the wall of the courtyard facing the street to carve out the area corresponding to the gate to form the front yard and form the entrance space for the cafe and the library. The part embedded in the interior makes the original thin wall no longer a skin, but a narrow but deep cavity. The window is more vivid, and the courtyard has the possibility to communicate with the street, which also becomes the spatial feature of the cafe.
While maintaining the facade's original appearance, the implanted white volume changes the perception of the depth of the facade. It is eroded and reduced to form a space, while its surface becomes the lining of the original facade. Six large floor-to-ceiling Windows in the brick wall along the street, once obscured by thick curtains, now change the expression of the facade and redefine the relationship between the courtyard and the street.
The three courtyards are divided by thick walls, where the coffee making area, meal preparation area, storage, toilet and other service spaces are set up. The space and the layer are clearly defined. This is different from the organization of traditional courtyard space. It is not only the basic feature of modern architectural space, but also satisfied the functional requirements. In the experience of each space, the connection between interior and courtyard is strengthened. On the other hand, the storage and service space makes the use space complete, which is a more efficient way to construct the space structure, and also makes the change of future use requirements more flexible.
The north side of the small yard, which is restricted by the border of the surrounding neighborhood, has no ventilation and lighting conditions and is only used as a warehouse. We chose to sacrifice the interior space to step back, leaving a section of roof panel at the end of the room against the neighborhood courtyard wall to form a Ya Yuan, the room is lit by the sunlight on the gray brick wall. Since this room used to be a black room, black is still chosen as the tone of the space after the transformation, hoping to remind some former space character. The dark space background color also makes the light of the Ya Yuan particularly valuable. The corrugated mirror stainless steel ceiling reflects light and greenery, giving the dark space a Zen feel.
As a whole, the plan space is formed by three layers of progressive courtyards, which gradually transition from the open street to the closed inside. At the end of the white volume’s entrance, there is a passage perpendicular to it, through the south - north 3 layers of horizontal segmentation space. And enhanced the passage’s sense of space by thick walls. At one end of the passage faced Ya Yuan, an old brick wall set against the green of a magnolia; One straight end is facing a large window, through which, across the street is the entrance of Dashibei Hutong. Sitting by the window, watching the visitors entering and leaving the hutong, it seems that the sight and mind can be extended to the hutong life following this passage. The depth of the space and courtyard is further enhanced by the white cafe parallel to the street and its vertical passage.
The courtyard is not big, and the usage requirements are not complicated. How to understand the historical ambience of the site, how to view the ever-changing factors in the urban development and the precipitation of historical genes interwoven together is the key to describe the future of the courtyard. The key is to coordinate the relationship between traditional feature and contemporary life and to establish the meaning and value of design under various constraints. Collage, symbol and evolution have always been the topics we have been thinking about in the work of urban renewal, and the work of the courtyard has given us some new understanding.
Collage: The renovation of the courtyard is not based on a design process of clear concept, rational analysis and logical, but a process of constantly discovering and solving problems in the construction process by combining numerous on-site experiences and discoveries. In this process, many feelings are fragmented, even accidental. These mixed and fragmented space feelings dissolve some overall or deliberate design consciousness. On the premise of responding to environmental relations and addressing usage needs, the decomposed space and collage language transform the originally single-function and closed courtyard into an open public space that can adapt to new life forms. In response to urban regional development, evolution, overlap, record more real community daily life.
Symbols: From the courtyard wall of the Republic style of the street renovation to the courtyard of this renewal, these architectural elements have typical symbolic characteristics, which are easy to recognize and understand in the old city. But the key to make people understand the symbol is that it cannot be separated from the place background, otherwise it will lose its rich and complex traditional connotation and significance. We hope that the application of these symbols in the renovation of No.33 courtyard can combine with the historical ambience of the site, and form a state in line with the atmosphere of the site with the traditional courtyard of the block as the historical gene, as a response to the Gulou West Street and the Drum Tower. We used to associate symbols with cheap decorations, but in the context of urban renewal, we have a new understanding of the role of symbols.
For a long time, we have been attracted by the form and space language of those grand and novel modern architecture, and have been striving to explore the path of innovation. However, with the development of urban renewal work in recent years, people gradually understand that the original grand and novel architecture maybe doesn’t always mean a good urban living environment. Urban renewal is based on the existing environment, and symbols can be understood as a way to establish a friendly relationship with the environment. Although we do not agree with the single and stylized preservation of historical features, it is still meaningful to view the role of traditional symbols more positively for the protection and renewal of old cities.
Evolution: The old city of Beijing contains a vibrant historical structure, which presents a complex and mixed state in the process of integrating contemporary life, filled with real and diversified life. Therefore, the renewal and protection of the old city should take this as the premise, and finally show a dynamic or evolutionary process of urban development. Therefore, in the renewal of the old city, the response and respect to the environment should be fully considered in the handling of environmental relations. In the form of language try to make the architect "disappear". Respect the complexity and mix of the site, constantly ask the value of daily life scenes, understand the emotion of the place with local, rather than immersed in some professional context to pursue the design of consummate and control.
Gulou West No. 33 Courtyard is not a typical traditional courtyard, but a courtyard lacking historical features. However, it is in a special position. The huge contrast between the inside and outside of the courtyard after renovation and renovation of Gulou West Street makes it representative in the context of urban renewal today. We try to depict the evolution of the city with the transformation of a small courtyard, strengthening the relationship between the smallest unit and the overall structure. Only from the courtyard to the street, from imagination to experience, can truly form the meaning and value of the place. The space of the courtyard is closed and introverted, but the design should be expressed with an open urban vision, in order to form a complete experience from the whole to the part.
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