I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals; I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object. –Roland Barthes, Mythologies
In a city of 22 million inhabitants and 5 million vehicles, being trapped in a car in Beijing’s notorious traffic is a ubiquitous experience in the capital city. Neri&Hu’s approach to the architectural renovation and interior design of an Automobile Repair Shop in Beijing attempts to recapture the allure and magic that was once associated with cars. Along with a Café and Offices, the project as a whole is conceived as a workshop space, partly raw and partly refined, it is activated throughout with the energy and spirit of the industrial era.
Architecturally, the existing army weapons factory building on site is kept intact, three of its four brick walls remain untouched. With the addition of a new steel frame structure, a third level is added to accommodate the client’s capacity needs. Demonstrating a certain tectonic candor, the tripartite of elements—existing brick building, steel structural frame, and inserted white volume—are visually distinct and legible on the façade. A series of black metal frames redefines the rhythmic window openings, while mirrored glass provides textural intrigue to the mostly monochromatic base. Raw steel edged glass garage doors at each of the vehicular entries are marked with custom graphics and signage to guide visitors to distinct areas along the building’s nearly 100m length.