Hutong Block

Hutong Block

Beijing China, 2023

Beijing is a city with many faces. It’s a place that presents a powerful duality. Where the ancient mingles with the contemporary, where the past meets the future. This project thrives on exploring this in-between space.

Here, we embark on a transformation journey, regenerating a former 190-room hotel, rejuvenating every facet, from the exterior to the interior and the surrounding landscape. The hotel is nestled within the heart of Beijing’s ancient old town, a stone’s throw away from the awe-inspiring Forbidden City. The immediate neighborhood is an embodiment of traditional low-rise Hutong, echoing centuries of history.

Just beyond this historic low-rise basin, Beijing has expanded into an impressive mix of contemporary architecture, characterized by a bustling urban culture. The stark contrast between these two urban landscapes provides a unique dialogue to engage with. This seven-story structure, standing at a height of 24 meters, engages with both facets of the city. Its robust base is nestled in between the small dense Hutongs, while its lofty presence proudly oversees the old town, making a statement that can be seen from afar.

The site spans two sides of a city block, offering entrances on both roads. In an area where spaces function more like alleys connecting traditional Hutong buildings, this larger footprint disrupts the established fabric, offering a new type of space for the neighborhood. This expanded block combines commercial spaces and serviced apartments, breathing life into a larger public space.

Design Value

We’ve broken down the scale of the building on the ground floor, forging a stronger connection with its surroundings. By creating a generous opening that seamlessly links the front and back roads, we’ve established a human-scale connection. This passageway invites people to filter through and serves as a communal gathering place. Enriching the public areas with greenery and comfortable seating, with intention to cultivate an urban oasis.

Our approach to this building extends beyond ground level. It needed to be recognizable from a distance, a standout feature in the city’s chaotic landscape but at the same time abiding to the characters of its neighbors. Wrapping the building in a structural framework not only unifies its diverse functions but also creates a powerful and ordered visual identity amidst the small and slightly chaotic surrounding scale.

As the big kid on the block, we wanted the building to pay homage to its roots and stand proudly within its context. Drawing inspiration from its traditional surroundings, the textural stucco cladding echoes the various shades of gray found in the classic Hutong brickwork.

This permeable block, designed with thoughtfully curated public spaces, aspires to become a vibrant hub, acting as a central gathering place for the local community and providing visitors with an opportunity to experience the old city fabric within a contemporary setting that respects its rich historical context.

Client: Golden Union Group
Location: Beijing, China
GFA: 14,136 sqm
Design Stage: April 2020 – August 2021
Completion: June 2023
Design Scope: Facade and interior renovation
Design Principals: Wendy Saunders, Vincent de Graaf
Studio Director: Yvonne Lim
Team Leader: Hwajung Song
Design Team: Damon Yu, Emilio Wang Chen, Yi Zhang, Yinbo Yang
Visualization: Yan Jiao
FF&E Team: Lili Cheng, Weisha Dai
Photography: Dirk Weiblen

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