BIG THANKS to those who have shown continuous interest and support to our CBR Speakers Series! We just hosted our June presentation with architecture office studio O, thanks to all of you, it was another good night of inspiration and fun conversations.
With the title “Memory & Identity: renovation as narrative” Cristiano Bianchi and Enrico Ancilli, two partners of studio O, shared with us four of their previous architectural renovation projects. These four covered renovations under different situations and regulations: hutong and industrial spaces in China, as well as a historic restoration project in Italy. In one continuous story Cristiano and Enrico emphasised their perspectives towards building restoration and renovation related topics:
“We try to discover the stories that every building has to tell, and then we reveal them by contrast, using a strong contemporary language. Through renovation we hope to rediscover memory and redefine an architectural identity.” – studio O
Baitasi Remade – Exhibition Center
The existing side profile of the building, which is an addition of a square shape (street front shop typology) and a traditional apexed roof (residential courtyard typology) was the direct inspiration of the project, as an iconic representation of the essence of the Baitasi area.
The side profile was marked with a white outline to both delineate the facade and to draw the eye to the various architectural details included in the facade. Once demolition within the building was underway some interesting layers of history were releaved within the original ceiling and walls. The architects therefore decided to use these original features as part of the exhibition, restoring one side while simply preserving the other. For the front facade local regulations were followed using a similar window frame style and size and sinage which matched with the other store fronts.
Gaobeidian – Giri International Art Center
The second project studio O introduced was a dilapidated warehouse space which was converted into an art center. The requirements were to create some additional exhibition and studio space which required the demolition and new construction of two buildings, as well as the renovation of several large existing hangers. The main focus of this project was to create a dialogue between existing and new buildings through a common design language. This included creating a blend of indoor and outdoor public spaces along the facade, as well as throughout, one of the existing buildings.
The use of new materials also played an important role, with the perforated and sheet metal cladding mimicking the industrial architecture of its surroundings. The new building was created in the same shape and structural style as the existing, the shiny metal facade reflecting the existing red brick of the building opposite it. Eight types of concrete, in varying shades of natural colouring further helped to blend buildings and landscape together.
Monteriggioni Research Center
Our speakers then took us to a project in Italy, a place with some of the most stringent heritage regulations. Using the case of a 13th century building owned by a sustainability and green energy company who wanted to use it for their headquarters, Enrico demonstrated some of the differences when it comes to heritage preservation and restoration between China and Europe.
This is a place where moving a stone could require months of paperwork processing, and most likely you would still get rejected. – Enrico
Later additions to the building, which were historically inaccurate for their time, are still none-the-less heavily protected today. This level of protection seriously restricted the architects’ movement and called upon for some creative design ideas. Bringing more natural light in was one outstanding challenge. Modifying the outside of the facade or roof was almost impossible. In order to bring daylight into the darker areas, in a way that could not be observed from the outside, studio O applied light tubes which could bring in light from up to 12 meters distance. A central sky light was introduced in the roof as part of the new stairwell. The wooden rafters were reinforced with a steel and glass frame with every second roof tile replaced to create a type of slatted skylight that does not disrupt the aesthetic of the roof from the outside.
During their demolition process layers of history belonging to different eras of the building were uncovered piece by piece. In order to capture these memories of the building studio O maintained some of these original interior features, such as parts of the original brick floor, niches and doorways, other unnecessary parts were thrown away and disposed in skips.
Re-traced Memories – Gulou
During the remodeling of Beijing’s Gulou area over the last two years, many of the area’s courtyards were demolished and their residents relocated. studio O wanted to preserve some precious “moments” that once belonged to this area before they were swept away, by collecting textures from everyday scenes.
They did this by sneaking into the demolition sites and taking silicone moulds of things that represented the hutongs: an old tree, a carved stone, a scratch on a wall, a wooden beam… Then the textures were scanned and applied to plaster and porcelain to create thin plates.
CBR Speakers Series
CBR has teamed up with architecture design consultants anySCALE, cultural heritage preservation organisation the Courtyard Institute, and Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) to promote building restoration in Beijing and around China by hosting a speakers series. Topics include building preservation, restoration and retrofitting, culture and heritage, and much more. So please keep an eye out for upcoming announcements through our newsletter! You can also join our WeChat group at @ProjectCBR to receive more information.