When designing the residence for artist Cai Guoqiang, architect
Pei-Zhu’s major concern was to find a way of reconciling renovation and restoration of a traditional Chinese house, a “siheyuan”: richly decorated single-storey, grey brick buildings developed around rectangular inner courts. This particular house is one of the many high-status buildings in the Hutong neighbourhood near the Forbidden City, that are now the focus of conservation. The two-volume residence was renovated with particular attention to reinstating the decorations, their bright colours, walls and pitched roofs of the structures that enclose the large court, a secluded paved area dotted with a few trees. All work was done using traditional techniques and craftsmanship with a view to the unobtrusive inclusion of modern bathroom facilities, heating and the like. The wooden floors and walls, the unrendered brick masonry and folding trellis partitions filtering the light recall the former architecture. It is the artist’s studio proper - a multi-purpose area suitable also for exhibitions - that demonstrates the successful blending of renovation and tradition. This entirely new volume has been placed in the smaller inner court. In steel and glass, it is the essence of lightweight and luminosity, fitting seamlessly into its historic context.