German architect Ole Scheeren just unveiled plans for Beijing’s contemporary Guardian Art Center, a culturally sensitive building that combines China’s traditional identity with contemporary design. Located only blocks away from Beijing’s Forbidden City and the city’s most famous shopping district, the massive mixed-use project sits at the crossroads of an immensely important and historic site. Scheeren, who also worked on Beijing’s iconic and Escher-esque CCTV building when he was a partner at OMA, describes the design as a “true integration of Chinese identity and contemporary architecture.”
Billed as a “new hybrid institution,” the Guardian Art Center comprises a museum, event space, a 120-room hotel, and cultural lifestyle center. Its sensitivity to Beijing’s historic context was imperative in winning approval—developers had tried to win approval to build on the site for 18 years, and at least 30 design proposals for the site had been rejected previously. “The Art Center will be a tangible link between past, present, and future. It celebrates history and tradition while also representing an important social and civic amenity for the capital,” says China Guardian’s Chairman and Founder, Chen Dongsheng.
Scheeren pays homage to Beijing’s traditional architecture in the Guardian Art Center’s lower volume, a four-story-tall stack of staggered plinths constructed from gray stone. A series of small “pixelated” perforations allow light into the building; the projection of a famous landscape painting, the 14th century “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” onto the building determined the location of those openings. The lower volume consists of the multifunction hall, auction hall, 1,700-square-meter column-free exhibition space, and other event spaces.
The lower portion’s dark gray facade is contrasted with the upper volume, a floating ring made from over-sized glass bricks that, according to the designers, “represent civil society and values—a humble and non-elitist symbol in Chinese culture.” This elevated ring contains several restaurants and the hotel, while a central club tower is sited within the ring. The Guardian Art Center is currently under construction and is slated to open in 2016.
Images via Buro Ole Scheeren