Appointed by real estate agents CR Land to design a building for their negotiations and sales, to stand right next to one of these construction sites, Vector Architects of Beijing designed an evocative building, elevating a simple place of business to the status of symbol of the city’s urban and architectural transformation.
On a slice of land between a construction site and Dongdajie Road stands a building that acts as a gateway introducing us to interpretation of the contemporary: a building on the borderline between inside and outside, which serves to show people how their city is growing and how they can be a part of it.
The building, containing commercial services (reception area, showroom, offices and administration) is not designed as a place for sales but as an exhibition pavilion, a temporary installation which changes under the influences of the changes underway. Its floor plan is irregular, a long open space leading to courtyards with views of outside, filters in which visitors can see the construction work underway nearby. The first thing to be brought inside is nature, recreating little gardens with trees and plants which are also visible from outside thanks to corten steel and fibreglass grids, continuing to pursue this vision and the ambiguities it creates.
Visitors feel they are neither truly outside nor inside: as they walk across the pavilion, they are physically inside, but their perception of being indoors is constantly denied by views of the outside that come into the pavilion, interrupting architecture’s function as a regular, defined space.
The cladding on the pavilion’s walls is the most artistic element of the design: the south-facing walls are built out of a grid of steel and another of fibreglass, presenting different weaves which, when overlapped, further add to our uncertainty about what we see, encouraging us to take another look. On the side facing the street, colourless synthetic material dialogues with the corten steel structure and the beautiful dark red that it forms when exposed to the weather; inside, the colourless white floors and walls focus attention on the bamboo veneer of the ceilings. The structural ribbon of steel embracing the entire building is a unifying element, effectively distinguishing between inside and outside. The complex design of the facades is matched by the floor plan, legible through the weave of horizontal surfaces: the white floors, the wooden false ceilings, the garden and the stone marking the entrance by the bold design of the corten entry portal.
The pavilion's symbolism is perceptible by day but even more obvious by night, when the lights inside it make it shine with a light of its own that clearly reveals the decorative patterns on its surface.
by Mara Corradi
Design: Vector Architects (Gong Dong, Chien-ho Hsu)
Assistant: Jiajun Chen Qun Sun
Client: CR Land
Structural design: Huanyu Design Institute, Hefei
Location: Hefei (China)
Built surface area: 900 m2
Project date: 2009
Construction date: 2009
Corten steel and fibreglass cladding panels
Plasterboard and bamboo veneer ceiling
Photographs: Shuhe Photo and Vector Architects