The New Tea House in Old


This photo perfectly revealed the design concept of the new Tea-Cafe designed by ARCHSTUDIO in old Beijing city : the duality of old and new. By introducing an additional roof element filling the residual space between the traditional structures, the architects are seeking to transform the exterior back into the interior, and yet maintain the in-betweeness of the new structure by punching openings in the roof. As one example of the adapted reuse projects in inner Beijing, the project's conception of old in new, together with it's diversified materiality and elaborated detail cater to the nostalgia of a group of Beijingers well. In that sense, the project is successive in fulfilling the market needs. Yet in a recent lecture at Harvard GSD, Professor Kenneth Frampton, when talking about his recent trip to China, claimed this building to be "wired", with a "the new concrete roof in a very uncomfortable relationships with the traditional pieces." and having borrowed features from SANAA, an Japanese architectural firm. He didn't elaborate on how this design failed to be "convincing" but jump quickly to other projects. The design of the building is carried out in a collage method, with the new structure juxtaposing the old and right punching into each other at the interface. On the photo below we can see the new ceiling cut into the boundary of the old structures by about five inches. The steel columns supporting the new structure are wrapped around by old timber columns to be faked as the same as old. The curvature of the new openings are coming from nowhere, in spite of being described by the architects as 'the flat curvy corridor that creates a smooth transition from the past to the present.' in Archdaily. The project failed to continue the adaption with the old tectonic language, and failed to solve the ventilation problem by using traditional techniques of the Beijing courtyard houses. But then so what? The project ends in the compromisation between looking traditional and being traditional, as a result of the limitations of the current prevalent building technologies and building conventions of our generation, like many of the other buildings in China. This problem is faced not only by the architects of this project, but a group of architects who strive to express the tension between tradition and our ontology. This passage is not to condemn but to reflect on how we resolve the interface, both the physical interface and the historical interface of time.



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