Big ideas in Little Beijing

A microcosm of the dynamics of Beijing's everyday life

by James Forryan 27 October 2009
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    Choawai-SOHO was completed in October 2007 and occupies merely one block of the CBD development that is rapidly redefining Beijing’s skyline. It has been designed to present an alternative to the typical model of Western transplant observed in neighbouring regions; it could not exist anywhere else, only in Beijing. Accordingly, it is very important to remember and reinterpret the identity of Beijing within the rapid change, which is almost menacing the traditional way of life in Beijing.

    A number of concepts are established for this purpose. The first concept is the idea of ‘city within the city’. Its scenery of urban fabric in the building will greet its visitors and residents, bring back in them memories and incite new lives. The building itself is a small city; Little Beijing.

    The second concerns the concept of a new building type. Analogous to natural topography, some parts are lifted up while others are lowered to form man-made nature, and the exterior shell is filled to define the inner void.

    Third, the overall shape of the building is circular, like the Tulou; a type of vernacular architecture found in southern China. The solidity of the outer shell gives its inner space an atmosphere of introversion and strong solidarity, but also opens up vigorously to the external city. Fourth is a new analysis on the interior functions. They are not so clearly divided, but carefully organised with strategy which actively incorporates various forms of living and will secure the dynamism of life happening inside this small city.

    Finally, the exterior material is grey stone; dark grey is the traditional color of Beijing. The details of this grey stone will accumulate memories with depth and density through the passage of time.

    It is the architect's wish that this work will transcend the simple notion of ‘new’ building and be remembered as Little Beijing, built on the soil of the historic city in a new era.


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