MAD Architects has recently completed the restoration and reconstruction of a 305 sqm traditional courtyard house that dates back to the Qing Dynasty in Beijing, China. “Hutong Bubble 218” is a continuation of MAD’s exploration into urban renovations as a means of revitalising the Chinese capital’s old neighbourhoods that have been confronted with degradation and demolition as a result of rapid development. MAD’s renovation demonstrates how small-scale, artistic interventions can provide new spaces and programs for these adverse areas, creating a dialogue between the old and the new.
“Hutong Bubble 218” is the result of MAD’s participation in the Old City Renewal Research Program which launched in 2014. Co-sponsored by Tianjie Group, the Beijing Center for the Arts and Beijing Architectural Design and Research Institute, the initiative invited domestic and international architects to renovate several sites in Beijing’s historic city center. For this research project, MAD focused on four principles: historic preservation, urban regeneration, reenergising the community spirit and small-scale intervention.
MAD’s design introduces several sculptural art objects – ‘bubbles’ – onto the site. One connects the first and second floors with a staircase. Puncturing through the roof landscape, it emerges onto the terrace and functions as an independent meeting room/shared workspace, and flows over the edge into the front courtyard. Another bubble appears as if it has landed on the rooftop of the building. While they may seem foreign in their historic context, a mysterious aura emanates from these futuristic and surrealistic forms. Their smooth mirrored surfaces reflect the ancient buildings, trees and sky within the vicinity, blending into the environment. Instead of interrupting the existing urban fabric, the old and new complement one another.