Text description provided by the architects. As a renovation project by the Chinese architecture studio Atelier 11, the Inside-out Art Center is part of a cultural industrial zone located in the west part of Beijing. With a total scale of 211,530 sqm, the zone includes studios for artists, lofts, office complex, and exhibition centers. The Art Center is the only construction built out of an existing structure in this real estate project.
The original building of the Art Center was the factory site of a machinery company for about 30 years. With the developer’s expectation to keep and reuse this old structure and create both sale and culture-oriented facilities, the renovation started from the west side of the building and converted that space into a sale office (later used as a service office after the sale was completed). The design intention during this step was to keep the original building envelope as much as possible and to use steel frame in the interior as structural elements. This allows the architects to add a box-shaped volume inside the existing building and create new rooms for sale service by extending the space outside the existing windows, as an experiment on new approach for renovation.
In the second stage of the renovation starting one year after the renovation of the sale office, a multi-functional art center was built on the east part of the building. The Art Center and sale office are connected by an external passage in the shape of a zigzag tube. It is not only a functional feature for circulation, but also creates a twisted and narrow space that makes the eventual access to the grand exhibition hall an interesting experience for the visitors, with a dramatic contrast of space scale.
A simplistic aesthetic was adopted for the interiors of the Art Center with the intention to keep some characteristics of the previous industrial building, as a reflection to the history of the site. The original windows, walls, and floors are kept with modest renovation. The combination of daylights through the high side-windows and artificial lightings on steel-framed tracks fulfills the lighting requirement for exhibitions. As a supplement to the external passage, wide steps are also built to internally connect the spaces of the exhibition hall and the second floor of the sale office.
This project exemplifies that with creative renovation on historical buildings and not necessarily with big budget, we would have the opportunity to preserve the history of the city and at the same time develop new potentials out of any old functions, no matter whether the buildings were famous in history or just ordinary constructions.