Micro-yuaner, Cha’er Hutong 8 Courtyard_Childrens’ library
Winning Project of the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Cha’er Hutong (hutong of tea) is a quiet one among the busy Dashilar area within 1km distance from the city center Tiananmen Square. Cha’er Hutong 8 is a typical “Da-Za-Yuan”(big-messy-courtyard) once was occupied by over a dozen families. Over the past five decades, the families each built an added-on small kitchen in the courtyard. These added on structures form a special density that is usually considered not interesting, and almost all of them are automatically wiped out during the renovation practices in the past.
In this project, instead of wiping the small added-on structures out, we try to renovate them, redesign them and re-use them. In doing so, we intend to recognize the added-on structures as an important historical layer and as an critical embodiments of Beijing’s contemporary civilian life in hutong that is so often been overlooked.
Symbiotic to the families who still live in the courtyard, a 9 sqm children’s library built out of ply wood was inserted underneath the pitched roof of an existing building. In the meantime, under the big ash tree, one of the former kitchens was redesigned into a 6-sqm mini art space built out of brick. Outside of it, a trail of brick stairs leads up to the roof, where one may probe into the branches and foliage.
With Cha’er hutong 8 courtyard project we wish to strengthen bonds between communities, as well as to enrich the hutong life of local residents. A child may stop by after school, pick out a favorite book, and read in his little niche before getting picked up by parents. Or he may climb up the roof, sit in the shades, and engage in a cozy conversation with the elderly.