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The Lost Wall

YNL Architects

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YNL Design, YNL Architects

Project Name

The Lost Wall

Project Status

Concept Proposal

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Project Description

With the 1949 communist revolution, the social and cultural values of China were cataclysmically shaken and altered to such an extent that even the long-practiced building methods that had defined urban living in China's capital city were viewed as outdated and no longer relevant. Chinese communists sought to create a fresh, new socialist utopia, and any cultural icon of China's past became suspect. In a race to build up China's industrial capacity, many historic structures were destroyed. They are also the victims of the city's concentric circled ring road highway construction. Also, during the 1950s, a city redevelopment master plan and the "Weigai" system created in 1980s have been transforming old "Hutongs" (neighborhoods) into new high-density residential neighborhoods. Historic preservation was put in the back of the list under the government’s agenda and not valued by the general public. It is often overshadowed by developers' redevelopment advertisements due to its high profit. Tomorrow’s sustainable architecture shall not be limited to the green living and the energy consumption; it should also be culturally sustainable to the city’s unique history and be part of the overall effort that conveys the urgent need of historic preservation in a city with such a deep cultural value.

•A major earthquake struck the city of Beijing. More than 28,000 buildings collapsed and 100,000 buildings were classified as dangerous.
•More than 200,000 families were relocated and their courtyard houses were demolished during the "Weigai" system era.
•Almost the entire inner city wall was demolished in 1965 for the 2nd ring road construction.
•The eastern, southern and western sections of the inner city wall moats were covered over and became a part of the city's sewage system during 1960s.
•More than 150.7 million square feet of courtyard houses have been destroyed since the early 1950s.

The project is never meant to be a physical revival of what's lost, but rather an ideological intervention through the use of controversial architectural intrusion. It redefines the project site by sharply contrasting with the surrounding environment, an allegory of modern China and its destructive treatment of Beijing's historic buildings in the past century. The goal is to reinforce the importance of historic preservation by facilitating a cultural discussion. The selected site to experiment with is located immediate adjacent to the city's 2nd ring highway, where the ancient inner city wall once stood. It is currently a park built with left over spaces with minimal uses. Housing, the long existed problem that trigged the mass destruction of Beijing’s historic buildings, is the proposed program of the project. To symbolically illustrate the existence of the demolished city wall, a long and narrow design is used. The goal is to showcase the city's cultural identity with a contemporary architectural statement.

The north façade of the building is a solid thick stone wall with minimal architectural articulation served as a barrier to protect against the noise generated by 2nd ring road traffic. It is a symbolic representation of the demolished inner city wall and its protection function against enemies. It also blocks the unpleasant Northern wind during Beijing’s winter. South of the thick barrier wall is the “interior atrium”, where the site’s existing identity is preserved. It is intended to be used as a park shared by the occupants and open to the general public. Isolated from the adjacent streets, this overwhelmingly scaled space will provide a tranquil environment for the users. This “void” also allows natural light into the dwelling units similar to the function of a courtyard found in an ancient Beijing courtyard house. Typical dwelling unit is organized vertically with entrances on the first floor. Such organization eliminates the “Motel” style walkway on each floor and maximizes spaces with windows/balconies on both North and South sides. Punched balconies are located on the southern façade of the building to maximize sunlight. Each floor will be furnished with at least one balcony and natural wood is used as the main finish of the interiors. The semi-private green roof is reserved for the occupants, providing a platform for daily exercises and other leisure activities. It not only minimizes the heat island effect, but also allows storm water to be captured for irrigation uses.
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