The real culture of Beijing lies in the culture of Hutong and Siheyuan (courtyards). They give an insight to the old lifestyle of ordinary Beijingers. Because of the interlacement of the lanes, every house is connected to the other, making it easy for local people to keep in touch with their neighbours. But what does this bubble in the seemingly congested area do? What does it convey? Do you know?
Hutongs are a type of narrow street or alley commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, especially Beijing. When viewed from the air the interlaced lanes resemble a maze or a chessboard with delicate gardens, fine rockeries and ancient ruins which makes them a wonder in the world.
Hutongs are heaven to visitors, but a nightmare for existing residents, where the deplorable sanitary conditions and lack of private toilets make life extremely difficult. City developers tear down the historic fabric and recreate it in ersatz form for their wealthy clients. In response to this conflict, the architect, MAD Architects, decided to insert futuristic bubbles into the environment of the Hutongs, either to provide necessary facilities for the current residents or to create new spaces for the wealthy to live next door.
The project, Hutong Bubble 32 provides a toilet and a staircase that extends onto a roof terrace for a newly renovated courtyard house. Its shiny exterior renders it an alien creature, and yet at the same time, it morphs into the surrounding wood, brick, and greenery. The past and the future can thus coexist in a finite, yet dream-like world.
“The hutong bubbles it is plugged into the urban tissue, it is an attractor, attracting new people, activities, and resources to bring together a neighborhood. They exist in symbiosis with the old. It is fuelled by urban residue, the bubbles and it transforms to support the community’s needs. It allows the local residents to continue living in the old neighborhoods. In time, these interventions will become part of Beijing’s extending history, newly formed membranes within the city’s urban tissue,” say the MAD Architects.
The real ambition is for the hutong bubble to connect to the culturally rich urban environment, to connect to each individual’s vision of a better Beijing. The bubble is not a singular object, but an architecture that will initiate a renewed and energetic community.
Since the mid-20th century, many Beijing hutongs were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, however, many hutongs have been designated as protected, in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.