Opening in May 2018, the Guardian Art Center (Beijing) is an intelligent hybrid space that will function as a cultural institution: an auction house and gallery spaces meet restaurants, a hotel, and a transport hub. It is designed by Ole Scheeren, winner of – to name just two – World Building of the Year (2015) for The Interlace, Singapore, and the CTBUH Best Tall Building Award (2013) for the CCTV Headquarters, Beijing.
Close to the ground, the design is evidently inspired by the existing environment. The nested stone volumes that make up the lower levels of the building consciously reflect the scale and proportions of the traditional dwellings nearby. Sensitive it may be – indeed Scheeren describes it as “a statement of humbleness” produced with “a very understated sense of monumentality” – but the blend of old and new and the striking geometry is quite staggering in its simple beauty.
Higher up, a floating glass ring serves as a symbol of Beijing’s continued global status as a metropolis. In broader terms, the versatility of the architecture offers a powerful message that this is a diverse and welcoming public space. By functioning simultaneously as a cultural and commercial centre, it has the potential to inspire a new kind of interaction with the urban form.
The closer you look, the more there is to read: it has, Scheeren says, “reconciled the city’s complex narratives and offers a new perspective on the relationship between the historic and modern city.” The delicate perforations, for example, that allow light to shine into the interior, reference Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, a 14th century landscape painting by Huang Gongwang. Abstracting the traditional in this way – and throughout the project – allows the Centre to position itself as a prime example of architecture’s vital role in forging vibrant, cultural terrains of the future.
1. Guardian Art Center by Ole Scheeren © Büro Ole Scheeren. Photo: Iwan Baan.