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F.O.G. Architecture: ToSummer’s new flagship store in Beijing is situated within a 500-square-meter quadrangle courtyard built during Mid-Qing dynasty, located at 23 Guozijian St. This is another historical building conservation project ToSummer has undertaken in China after “111 Hunan Rd.,” and the restoration alone took a year to finish. At the sight of this 280-year-old architecture, we began by asking ourselves to find a balance between conservation and development.
▽手绘鸟瞰图：国子监23号 Aerial view by hand
1.问题的提出 THINKING BEFORE DESIGN
Ledoux and William Morris’s contrary positions on heritage preservation fueled our thinking. Ledoux posits that when restoring an old building, architects should employ traditional methods of construction and materials congruent with its texture to “repair the old in adherence to its original appearance.” This approach certainly complies with the principle of preserving the authenticity and integrity of architectural heritages, as laid down by The Venice Charter. However, when applied to large-volume architectural remains that have been heritage, Ledoux’s approach seems insufficient for properly placing new functionalities or integrating old buildings into modern urban life.
▽沿街立面 Street elevation
By contrast, Morris’s theory indicates that architects restore old buildings with methods and materials bearing attributes of the current age. To Morris, contrasts between the old and the new are a better way of accentuating the historical significance of old buildings.
▽展陈区 Exhibition area
Morris’s view seemingly made it easier for us to justify the new design; however, it led us to ponder over some more concrete issues. First, how do we determine what structures, components, and elements of the quadrangle courtyard to keep, replace, or eliminate? How do we highlight the building’s cultural and historical significance? These questions urged us to establish design criteria.
▽古井和雨链：在对地面进行翻新时，施工队从第一进院院落左侧挖出一口百年古井，这也是国子监街上唯一一口甜水井，虽已干涸，但砌砖工整，严丝合缝。我们将其完整保留下来，并从屋顶悬挂了一条雨链垂至井口，强调水井功能的同时，寓意为四合院重新注入生命。Old Water Well & Rain Chain: When renovating the floor, the construction team excavated a hundred-year-old well in the first courtyard, which was later confirmed to be the only sweet water well on Guozijian St. We kept the well despite the fact that it had already dried up because the brickwork was so neatly done and well preserved. We also hung a rain chain from the roof to right above the well to emphasize its function; symbolically, it speaks to our wish to rejuvenate the Siheyuan.
▽柱基石翻新前后对比 Column Base Stone Before & After Renovation
Another challenge had to do with the building’s old and new functionalities – more specifically, how to transform this venerable courtyard which has stood for nearly 300 years as a private residence into a commercial space that is neighbourly, communal, and all-inclusive.
▽罕见地，这座四合院从未设有影壁墙，大门处留有一定开放性（一种解释是它曾经为“前店后宅”布局，需要方便迎客）。基于此，我们索性将沿街立面改成玻璃，让行人可以观察建筑内层层递进的院落。This Siheyuan is rare in that it has never had a spirit screen, and the gate is relatively wide open (One explanation is that it used to be a house and had this layout for the convenience of serving customers.). To build on this unique feature, we made the storefront glass windows so that passersby can observe the courtyards inside.
Finally, with an apt amount of intervention, how do we harness the innate oriental elements of the Siheyuan to develop a “spatial mood” in tune with ToSummer’s brand identity?
▽观夏国子监同时容纳旗下新品牌方凹 ToSummer Guozijian also houses its new child brand, Fang Ao.
2.既有空间的解构 DECONSTRUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL SPACE
The original Siheyuan complex may be seen as an intact, enclosed spatial system built to accommodate its old functionalities. The installation of new ones must be preceded by the breakdown of the old system into a series of loosely connected sub-spaces. According to Derrida on deconstructionism, deconstruction is not a denial of the original space but positive reconstruction going hand-in-hand with demolition.
▽第二进庭院 Second courtyard
We approached deconstruction from both an epistemic standpoint and an experiential standpoint. While studying Siheyuan helped us effectively deconstruct the space, we also intended to document the impacts of colours, materials, plants, temperatures, sounds, and other spatial constituents on people’s subjective experiences.
Roof Truss & Beam Columns: The main purposes of roof trusses are bearing ceiling loads and enlarging the operative room between roofs and supporting structures. This Siheyuan has triangle-shaped timber roof trusses. Before the renovation, most of them had been covered in layers of decorating materials, sending out a strange sense of misplacement. Trying to recover the beauty of the original architecture, we removed these decorations along with some of the walls to get rid of any visual blockages and expose the wooden structure as much as possible.
▽屋架 Roof truss
The same method was applied to the beams and columns. Essentially, we “skimmed” the building to expose its “skeleton.” The resultant “column field” became the visual centre of gravity of the space as well as what defines its outline.
▽裸露出来的立柱 The exposed columns
When natural light passes the column field to hit the ground and the walls, the arrangement of the columns translates into rhythmic patterns of light and shadow, which now act in place of high walls to create depth for the space.
▽光影 Light and shadow
Rooftop: The rooftop was originally made up of layers of grey brick tiles. From afar, they looked like waves rushing in and out on the shore. To keep it uniform, we used tiles of the same making and layered them by the same density. We also replaced the broken parts of the “yuanyang tiles.”
Meanwhile, the pavilion on the second floor was remodelled into a lounge bridge on which people can view the roof. The roof and the bridge are connected by the glass. When sunlight shines on the roof edge and through the glass, a wavy shadow is left on the ground, marking a more subtle expression of the water element in this oriental courtyard.
▽廊桥 Corridor bridge
Plants: There is a hundred-year-old date tree planted in the back garden. We were impressed by its look and scent on our first visit. To highlight its presence, we repositioned the staircase to have people go up the stairs revolving around the date tree.
▽枣树和楼梯 Date trees and stairs
We also planted a pine tree in the second courtyard. Limited by the weather conditions of northern cities, there are relatively fewer plant choices for landscaping. A pine tree is suitable because of its growing habits and aura. Together, the date tree, pine tree, and long-lived Chinese scholar tree form a continuation.
▽松树 Pine tree
3.新功能的置入 INSTALLATION OF NEW FUNCTIONALITIES
The building components and spatial settings we chose to preserve underwent a “second-time exposure,” turning into a collection of loose, parallel structures. Immediately next, we faced the task of constructing a new spatial system by reorganizing these structures and introducing new functionalities.
The conventional layout of Siheyuan is rather secluded, prioritizing the privacy of the living areas and progression between courtyards. The transition from a private residence to a commercial space requires a new line of design logic: adopting a near “de-Siheyuan” approach, we weakened the enclosure of the site and separation between courtyards. The walls inside are mostly replaced by glass, which performs the functions of walls without obstructing light. By doing so, we also brought relief to the space’s dimension and traffic flow.
▽四合院多次易主，墙面历经改动破损严重，且存在局部渗漏问题。The owner of the courtyard has changed many times, and the wall has been changed and damaged seriously, and there are local leakage problems.
▽围合房屋的墙体多数被玻璃取代 The walls enclosing the houses were mostly replaced by glass
The traditional linear route of Siheyuan regulated by age, status, affinity, and other ritualistic factors has been adjusted into a flat-open free space. Observed from above, it is closer to a function-emotion field consisting of yards, rooftops, and scatters of columns.
▽一层平面图 Ground floor plan
▽屋顶平面图 Roof plan
After washing their hands by the entry, one may explore the product display areas occupying the first and second courtyards and the third courtyard designated to ToSummer’s new child brand, Fang Ao. The bridge connecting the second and third courtyards is essentially the traffic center. Symbolically, it represents graduating from the past to the present. All display areas on the ground level wrap around the first courtyard like rings, forming no strict limitation to the traffic flow.
▽净手区 Clear hand area
▽第一进 First advance
▽第二进 Second advance
▽侧院 Side yard
▽第三进 Third advance
▽位于二层的会客茶室和观景露台 Reception tea room and viewing terrace located on the second floor
Cities are dispersed with architectural remains like “23 Guozijian” which have not been listed for heritage conservation: courtyards, tube-shaped apartment buildings, prefab houses, urban villages, and so on. Each in its own form, these aged buildings embody the city’s history and annotate generations of people’s memories. It is therefore our belief that building conservation could be its own viable design method finding root in history and direction in cultural creativity. In the process, any attempt at restoration must be mindful of “the old,” and what is “old” can always bring new inspirations.
Area: 500 m²
Design Team: Zou Dejing, Wu Leilei, Wang Shengqi, Tang Mo, Lei Ronghua, Jiang Lu, Huang Yingzi, Zhuang Shaokai, Sun Yuan, Zhang Xinyue, Chen Yixuan, Zheng Yining, Tao Xinwei, Cao Xiaomao, Hou Shaokai, Xiong Aijie,Khoon Choi，Zhan Di, Zheng Yu
Project Management: Shen Qianshi
Lighting Design: Zhang Xu (LB Design)
Structure Consultant: Tao Xinwei, Wang Haibo
Construction Drawing: BSD
Managing Contractor: Youlong Jinsheng（www.youlongjinsheng.com）
Photography: InSpace Architecture Photography
Article: Cao Xiaomao, Baishao
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