The Chinese-German office RSAA/ Büro Ziyu Zhuang just recently renovated their office in the Beijing central axis. The project, which is next to the tallest ancient landmarks of Beijing for more than 600 years – Drum Tower and Bell Tower- is transformed from a traditional Beijing-style courtyard-Siheyuan in Dongjiaogan Hutong.
The design target was to build a timeless workshop whilst embracing the surround cultural context into the yard. Therefore, the renovation was organized into 4 steps; 1. Refurbishing the old section using the traditional method; 2. Insert a “timeless box” as a “functional generator”; 3. Reform the interface of the new yard space; 4. Organize the new space sequences under the link of the new interfaces.
To achieve the goals, after cleaning up some old unnecessary interfaces and exposed original traditional structures, Ziyu Zhuang and the team built a free-standing T-shaped volume made with glass to combine the original northern room, western and eastern room in order to form a more efficient working environment.
With the step-by-step approach explained above, Ziyu Zhuang converted a single yard space with one single image into a multi-layered space that follows its own narrative sequence. Some small interesting spaces, therefore, appear along the new path.
One small yard on the north-western wing of the T-shape volume was filled with AC outdoor units from different rooms and artificial green plants as a “camouflaged green light well” behind an opaque glass wall. The kitchen space shares the wall with its neighbor, whilst reusing the original structural components (red) and original tiles (green).
And the total construction cost was very efficiently controlled to be within 200,000RMB (30,000 USD) including the MEP and furniture cost. RSAA believe this renovation could be a great symbol of the link between the traditional Chinese lifestyle and the modern space visions under low cost.
One bookcase on the north-eastern wing of the T-shape volume also plays a role as a staircase to the rooftop level, where the views of the two ancient towers are introduced into the yard and a space for office chatting and social gatherings.
The traditional roof of Imperial Palace or the form of the sloping roof in early China are not allowed people to move on it.
The renovation provides the possibilities of traditional Chinese roofs, making them activity spaces. Previously, the roof has become a place to present models. But now, it can be used as a display and activity space.
Before Chinese roof has never been used as activity spaces，it was only a symbolic thing to emphasize the importance of the building. The renovation results in a roof with activity spaces. RSAA displayed their working models on the roof，while it became an activity space, especially during the spring and autumn.
RSAA/ Büro Ziyu Zhuang was founded in 2010, in which Ziyu Zhuang works as the chief architect, and it is one of RSAA GmbH members.
Meanwhile, Ziyu Zhuang is a partner of the German RSAA design group which was founded in 1965, operating in Cologne and owning around 80 architects. Based in Beijing, Büro Ziyu Zhuang aims to use the connections from Germany and China to establish a new design vocabulary making use of the resources of both to create a new element of thought, a fusion of European and Chinese architecture. This will create a new and unique style which takes advantage of the two-way system, bringing Chinese influences to Europe, crafting a new line of thought that surpasses the constraints of each individual culture, and vice versa.