Beijing Guanganmennei Community Cultural Activity Center / MAT Office
- Photographs: Kangshuo Tang
Site and strategy
The site is located in the Huaxing Building on Guangyi Street in the Xicheng District of Beijing. Formerly, the ground floor was rented out as ballrooms, which below is a small hotel. During the new series of lane regeneration and transfer to urban space, the government took over the space on a lease and invested in the modernization of the function. The “last ballroom” has been revitalized as a center of cultural activities serving the local community.
Before regeneration, the ground floor could not connect with the basement due to the different programs. In addition, the very dense beam frame prevented the use of activity space. Thus, connectivity, accessibility and spatial improvement under the demand of the original structure emphasize this project.
In accordance with the functional needs of the community organizer and the premises, we have concluded twelve “visiting cards” to generate a space for community cultural activities based on a mode of sharing and a low cost objective. The ground floor had a larger open area; therefore, it was oriented as the community cultural space; the basement has been adapted as an entertainment space for the local community due to its flexible dimensions. We have individually inserted “geometries” and “continuous ceiling” to adjust the transformation for the upper and lower floor. In addition, we have treated the emergency staircase on both sides as a unique element that has built a tonal and visual continuity between the two levels also complementing each other in terms of spatial scale and use.
Community culture and service space
As a cultural and service center, the ground floor contains a residence committee, a small theater, an exhibition space and a small library. “Insertion of geometries” is the main gesture for the air zone, the T-shaped volume, cylinder, cuboid as well as some pure geometries are integrated as community theater, community book tour and other programs. The other voids are malleable public spaces that could be oriented towards reading, entertainment or exhibition in terms of requirements and capabilities.
Community theater is the program that requires the largest area of this project, which generally requires long-term space. However, the current structural system could not meet the size and general conditions of a standard theater. Thus, we were inspired by the layout of the amphitheater, by inserting a T-shaped support in the existing column frame: the three stands are arranged around the central stage which transfers the binary opposition between stage and audience to a flexible relationship with diversification that could satisfy the conditions of performance, presentation, meeting, education and other diverse scenarios.
The cloakroom and the various additional functions are under the stands. In the three high corners of the T-shaped structure towards the circulation space, we took advantage of their height to design the reception, the café and the children’s presentation area. In the composition of these three corner programs, the calm and oppressive atmosphere of the volume of the theater is transformed into an enrichment of the space on the ground floor.
Community Book Tour
Community reading is another major program on the ground floor. As a result of the previous program – ballroom, the original windows were sealed so that the interior space did not have natural lighting and ventilation. During the site investigation, we demonstrated the need to import sunlight and fresh air. The light reading area is linearly arranged with the windows on the south and east sides which could maximize sunlight and create a calm reading atmosphere.
Instead of using the general bar shelves, we fitted out a full-height cylindrical book tower at the poor lighting center to provide inside and out – two different interfaces. The outer tower is a shelf and voids; on the interior interface, we combined shelves and seating on the elevation, using light panels to stimulate the skylight to design various reading possibilities.
Community support and entertainment
The basement is oriented as a space for community support and activity that requires flexible unit sizes. In allusion to the rules of safe evacuation and the continuity of the underground area, we have built a continuous green path to connect the exhibition space, the media room, the community workshop, the rehearsal room, the community lounge and the activity space of the serial miner, and highlighted its horizontal horizontal space. rhythm through disparate staggered units.
The underground space has a larger beam frame; the one meter deep beam has condensed the useful height to about two meters. To avoid a comfortable floor height, we have tried to keep the space dimensions of the original structure and only insert the concept – “continuous ceiling” at the level of the main equipment and the piping area. on the green lane to create space demands and transformations. To aim for sufficient height, the “continuous ceiling” is inverted in the shape of a trapezoid, the top of each trapezoid has lightweight panels to simulate an outdoor natural environment for the inhabitants.
As an open space with the downstairs association closet among the community facilities in the basement, the community lounge holds daily entertainment, discussions, residence meetings, temporary events and other programs. So, we used mobile furniture modules to divide the areas based on disparate community activities.
The main hallway of the community lounge connects the large and small rehearsal rooms, as well as the community workshop. The rehearsal room is open to locals to subscribe to the planning system, and the community workshop is a separate office for volunteers and community organizations.
Minor activity space
Initially, the room next to the emergency exit is in the basement was a discrete area; we have oriented it as an activity space for children. Different from the general family room which requires the accompaniment of parents, we have integrated a reading and drawing booth for the children to enjoy independently. The cabin is painted yellow and also uses the arched entrance to create an atmosphere of coolness and play. The exterior of the reading room is a retractable wall with open vision and natural lights. Parents can choose to play with their children or leave the room to themselves, enjoying the possibility of the space that parents and children can depend on and independent of each other.
From the urban inventory to the ideal community
After a year of designing and countless meetings with residences, and another one-year construction, the Beijing Guang’anmennei Community Cultural Activity Center was finally completed. As a government-led project, designed by architects, executed by a few teams, the mining process is a paragon of the transition from urban inventory to ideal community in modern cities. The completed community cultural activities center and multimedia theater, rehearsal rooms, library, juvenile space as well as all the other programs that the center contains, offer residents a space for cultural and entertaining activities, this which also improved residents’ perception and community participation.
For a community design, the regeneration of a physical space is a clear ambition. However, day-to-day operations and a series of adaptation processes are what people might encounter after completion. For architects, we should not only focus on everyday life and the graphic scene in designing a community space, but also on other social goals. Within the framework of a multi-stakeholder cooperation, we must design community spaces in an open and systematic way, consequently giving back the right to space to the inhabitants and realizing the additional ambition of creating the feeling of belonging of the community.
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