Kengo Kuma’s Latest Renovation Project Features an Aluminum Jigsaw Façade

The design team modernized a traditional Chinese courtyard home into a new café and office space.

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

This aluminum jigsaw façade by Japanese firm Kengo Kuma & Associates transforms a historic Chinese building into a modern meeting place for locals.

Set in Beijing’s Qianmen East — steps away from the city’s major landmarks of Tiananmen Square and Chang’an Avenue — this new renovation project brings a mixed program to a traditional Qing/Ming-styled courtyard house.

In modern Chinese society, high-rise construction has taken over the ancient design of the airy, open home with its nearby narrow alleyways. The architects sought to revive the porosity and connected nature of such structures by creating a proposal for new low-rise housings fit for various programs that open up to the street — their version of a modern-day “siheyuan.”

These open-plan communities are designed to include offices, houses, shops, hotels and restaurants. Each rehabilitated building features updated design techniques as well as a respect for the scale and context of the original structure. The result, as seen in this office that doubles as a café space, is a contemporary design that emphasizes transparency and inclusion.

The interior of the original wooden structure was dismantled, repaired and reassembled by local carpenters in keeping with the historic integrity of the building. Kengo Kuma’s design team envisioned an exterior that combined the original brick wall with a glass curtain wall and extruded aluminum screen. The design is a reference to the Chinese “huachuang” or lattice pattern found on the windows and doors of traditional architecture throughout the region.

Before the architects intervened with their sophisticated and respectful approach to the project, the building sat as an unwelcoming space of long-forgotten beauty. With the introduction of these new elements, the structure is now a showcase for the types of 21st-century, community-oriented buildings that are helping this historic neighborhood thrive once again.

Images by Maxim Hu via Kengo Kuma & Associates

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