‘Hutong Bubble 218’ sees the restoration and reconstruction of a 305 sqm traditional Qing Dynasty courtyard house – an urban renovation seeking to revitalize Beijing's old neighborhoods that have been confronted with degradation and demolition due to rapid development. The project demonstrates how small-scale, artistic interventions can provide new spaces and programs for these adverse areas – that progress doesn't require large-scale change and construction.
The building originally served as Beijing’s first international hospital for 100+ years, before being converted into a residence for over 20 families. It underwent restructuring multiple times, eventually leading to structural degradation. With declining living standards, it lost its charm, with most households moving out.
MAD’s design introduces several sculptural 'bubbles' onto the site. One connects the first and second floors with a staircase, emerging onto the terrace to function as a meeting space. Another appears as if it has landed on the rooftop. They seem foreign in their context, but their smooth mirrored surfaces reflect the surrounding ancient buildings, trees and sky, blending into the environment, with old and new complementing one another.
The scheme also conserves the courtyard's original spatial layout, aesthetic and material temperament, restoring it to its original glory; with the wood filigree panels lining it having been stripped of their stains and returned to their original lustre. Glazing along the street front has been replaced with transparent glass, maximizing natural light on the interior. From here, no one suspects the existence of the 'bubbles' beyond.
The project demonstrates how art and architecture can renew a city. Through small-scale interventions, the community is revitalized, attracting new people and programmes back into these once aging, neglected communities, metabolizing the old district and creating a conversation between tradition and the future, nature and humanity, expressed in a freehand artistic way.