Tradition and contemporary intervention peacefully coexist in an icon of Chinese culture and memory.
Adaptive reuse of four historic buildings at the Forbidden City's Jianfu Palace Garden of Established Happiness museum and visitors center in Beijing.
Preservation of the past was achieved, in part, through the resurrection of historic building and furniture-making techniques.
The visitors center is a multifunction space that serves as a reception center for visiting dignitaries, and as a museum of Chinese architecture with flexible exhibit space for artifacts, photos, and drawings. Central to the permanent exhibit are the 'bones' of the main pavilion which were purposefully left exposed to reveal the beauty of traditional engineering and techniques of craft.
A key intervention was the addition of a staircase to the main pavilion's upper levels, which had previously been used for storage, but now afford expansive views over the Forbidden City. Tsao & McKown also celebrated the few remaining traces of the original complex by creating a floating floor which preserves the ruined stone below and allows visitors glimpses through a series of reveals around the columns and at the perimeter. Woods for the new floor and stairs were chosen to complement those of the hand-hewn historical structure, but were planed smooth and given a light sheen, which at once denotes their contemporary heritage yet honors their surroundings by adopting a semi-reflective finish which has a dematerializing effect.
Client: China Heritage Fund
Sq. Ft.: 18,000