Heytown Art Center
The site is located 5km east of Beijing’s CBD, in the middle of an isolated diamond-shaped land parcel, intersected by serval railroads and divided into fragments. While the rest of the city undergoes rapid development, this urban enclave, hidden between defunct industrial building,s has remained undeveloped in the past 3 decades.
The client’s long-term goal is to regenerate these spaces by attracting cultural and creative industries, connecting the surrounding neighborhoods currently separated by the railroads, and gradually building a mixed-use community of 140,000m².
The architectural design revitalizes this urban enclave by weaving together retail, recreational, F&B, and creative spaces. The Art Center was proposed in the core of the creative industry zone.
The approach confronts the question of “How to transform an industrial space for productivity, to an art space targeting public engagement”, with a rational design strategy involving a “spatial prototype shift”: This is an appropriation of the prototype of the saw-tooth shaped plant buildings, adapted to the multiple program of the art center, and then translated into a new composite spatial prototype designed to maximize the creative vitality of the urban block.
The façade features a perforated-folded metal cladding with a saw-toothed volume, growing out of the shape of the plant building, and gradually extending forward, twisting at the end as it almost touches the elevated railway, forming a sense of ephemeral levitation. It also enriches the surrounding neighborhood’s dull skyline, not only with its decisive shape but also with its ever-changing light effects.The industrial past is re-conceptualized in a contemporary context, translated into 3 threads of materiality: the metal cladding that shifts between reflectivity and translucency, interpreting the contemporary cultural sensibility; the shadowing surface of red brick wall responding the historic character of the site; the large transparent glass openings and oversize pivot doors revealing the inside of the vessel to the public.
HeyTown Art Center features an aluminum façade wrapping around the entire suspended saw-tooth volume. Instead of perusing a smooth and sleek image of a definite “newness” that the usage of metal usually bring to such a context, it was taken as an experiment on potential “natures” of aluminum: minimum angle of folding, jumping rhythm of corrugations, different ratio of perforation, extreme strength of the metal for vertical span, enhanced reflectivity. This is meant to achieve a tangible and frictional experience of the architecture that is in constant dialogue with its surroundings, and to create a tension from the site’s past towards its future.
In the daytime, the folded cladding brilliantly captures the changing light conditions with its varying angles, like a series of prismatic mirrors echoing the sky. At the evening begins, the semi-reflective volume starts to illuminate itself and the cold reflection gradually turning into warm translucency from the top to the bottom. The constant overlapping of such ambiguous light experience throughout the day, adds an elusive narrative to the spatial context.
The 3,300m² building consists of three basic segments: entrance hall with HeyGallery on the second floor, connected through a large spiral stair; central space that switches between a theater with 500 seats or open up as exhibition space with a series of large pivot doors opening to the plaza; back of house zone with function rooms. In addition, there are also a bookstore/shop, an art education studio, a double-floor linear gallery, among many other support spaces. Such spatial arrangement is assembled to maximize the adaptability to different scenarios of indoor-outdoor program.