Interpretation of China Space - Renovate Restorate Renew

International Invitation for an Exhibition of a Conceptual Design for New Xisi Bei Street, Beijing

Exhibition Period: June 16 – 19, 2007
Exhibition Place: National Library, 39 Baishiqiao Road, Beijing 100081, China

Republished with permission by Keru Feng, assistant curator

General Description of the Project

1.Project Location

The site is located to the west of Xisi Bei Street, Xicheng District, Beijing City, where the Xisi Bei historical and cultural preservation area is located. It is 350,000 m2 in area, and is one of the 25 historical and cultural preservation areas of Beijing’s Old City, designated by the Municipal Government. The buildings in the area demonstrate a traditional architectural style and features, and the street pattern is typical of traditional areas in Beijing. The clear structure of the Hutongs (traditional roads or alleys running east to west through city blocks) and the abundance of traditional architecture make the area highly representative of traditional Beijing residential culture. In all, the site includes eight deep and serene Hutongs, more than 40 well-preserved courtyard houses and four buildings designated as protected cultural relics.

2.Overall Concept

To redefine the Xisi Bei area from an overview of it’s wider urban context, in particular Financial Street, Houhai, and Xicheng District, and on a wider scale the Old City and the entire developing area of Beijing. This means not only gradually restoring and preserving the existing historical areas, but also considering new opportunities in the context of current and future urban situations in Beijing, in order to stimulate and reposition the existing area.

In close proximity to the Xisi Bei area can be found the prosperous Xidan commercial zone, which is becoming one of the main shopping centres of Beijing; Financial Street, which is gradually becoming the financial and enterprise centre of Beijing and China and making an impact on the global economy, and Houhai, now a fashionable and vibrant leisure district. Located in this context, with the potential to make full use of the new positive elements around it and integrate its existing historical urban resources (such as in Xidan and the Xisi Bei area itself), the Xisi Bei area is facing the opportunity of repositioning itself. The ultimate aim is to position the area as a world-class centre for creative industries and to create a commercial/leisure street to host famous international brands, whilst maintaining a specifically Chinese character and incorporating the preservation and renovation of the surrounding courtyard houses.

The introduction of an international commercial factor into the Xisi Bei area is not intended to create dramatic change in the fabric of the area, rather the aim is to fully integrate, utilize and respect the existing layout, to activate and increase the area space value, and to provide an innovative and feasible renovation model for the preservation of the Old City, with potentially global influence.

3.Creation of New Xisi Bei Street

The reconfiguration of the existing commercial streets of the Xisi Bei area is concerned primarily with the comprehensive renovation of the area to the west of Xisi Bei Street. The preliminary concept is to respect the existing street pattern of the Hutongs, to renovate the former commercial layout in Xisi Bei Street into a commercial street of international brands, and to create a pedestrian shopping street specializing in luxury and international brands (New Xisi Bei Street) parallel to Xisi Bei Street, in order to form a commercial complex with the Hutongs.
With both the north and south ends of Xisi Bei Street linked to subway stations, the presence of many public buildings (such as Longchang Temple), and the well-protected Hutongs and courtyards houses, the potential to enrich and activate the whole area is high.

In summary, this project seeks to create in Beijing a world-class shopping street, and further, by inserting this modern commercial urban element into the traditional fabric of the Xisi Bei area, to reactivate the entire surrounding area.

Subjects of the Exhibition

1.Global Context

The renovation of historical areas has become a global trend in recent years. Tokyo, New York, Berlin, London, Milan and other cities, have successfully increased the value of their historical and cultural areas through the integration of contemporary creative industries. One trend in recent years is for well known architects to implement new design concepts in spaces such as the flagship stores of top-grade commercial brands, often in traditional historical areas, and some of these have become successful examples of innovative and forward-looking architectural renovation.

2.Beijing Context

After experiencing years of setbacks, the preservation of Beijing Old City has now become a relevant issue for the government and the city itself. Last year the government issued policies to encourage the introduction of creative industries to activate declining areas. The complexity of property rights, historical issues and preservation policies have caused difficulties and limitations for renovation in the past, but these have now become the motivation for the exhibition of the conceptual design for New Xisi Bei Street. As a result of these previous difficulties, there are no existing successful examples for the renovation of Beijing Old City, and this exhibition is committed to exploring new possibilities for this matter.

3.Conceptual Design for New Xisi Bei Street

The conceptual design for this project is not only seen to be architectural design or block planning, rather the idea is to create a conceptual design for New Xisi Bei Street itself, which is divided into nine sections with the Hutongs marking the north and south extent of each section. Each architect will produce a concept design for one of these pieces, and also a concept for the Xisi Bei area as a whole.

The design is to have the New Xisi Bei Street at the center, creating a brand-new longitudinal pedestrian street. This can be extended eastwards to the existing shopping area of Xisi Bei Street, and westwards into the Hutongs to demonstrate how the contemporary design will integrate with this traditional area.

The individual sections designed by the nine architects will form the overall concept design for New Xisi Bei Street. As there is the potential for all of these conceptual designs to be realised at a later stage, it should be feasible to construct all of the proposals (the design fee of an implementation stage will be paid additionally).

4.Academic Appeal of the Exhibition——Interpretation of Exhibition Subjects

The subject for this International Invitation is, “Interpretation of China Space”. In this case “China Space” is not only to be defined as a cultural and spatial symbol. Since New Xisi Bei Street is located in one of the 25 preservation areas of Beijing Old City, the planning of the street will have a height limit of six meters. Therefore, it can be said that the conceptual design of New Xisi Bei Street is limited to the condition of “China Space”. Limitation should also be an inspiration for the imagination of the designers. It is believed that the participants for this exhibition will provide new models of spatial renovation in low-rise, high-density preservation areas.

Producing daring conceptual design within strict limiting conditions, and in the context of the renovation of an historical area, is also a challenge to existing global renovation models. In this spirit the exhibition “Interpretation of China Space——International Invitation for an Exhibition of a Conceptual Design for New Xisi Bei Street” will positively explore all aspects of exhibition organisation, it’s design, methods of exhibition, new media, exhibition promotion and so on.

5.Commercial Appeal of the Exhibition

As mentioned above the aim of the project is to position New Xisi Bei Street as a world-class centre of creative industry and shopping. Therefore, the selected architects should not only have an understanding of the renovation of traditional areas, but also relevant commercial experience, due to the possible of future implementation of proposals.

Exhibition Scheme

1.General Description of Exhibition

Name of Exhibition: “Interpretation of China Space · Regenerate Restore Renew ——International Invitation for an Exhibition of a Conceptual Design for New Xisi Bei Street”
Curator: Jian Shi (Beijing architecture critic, curator, director of Isreading Culture)
Assistant Curator: Feng Keru (Architect, editor of Domus China)
Owner: Beijing Xisi Bei Ltd.
Organizer: Isreading Culture
Exhibition Period: June 16 – 19, 2007
Exhibition Place: National Library

2. International Architects to be Invited


Qing Ma (MADA s.p.a.m., Shanghai, China)
Pei Zhu (Studio Pei -Zhu, Beijing, China)
Spacework Architects (Beijing, China)


Hiroshi Nakamura (Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Office, Tokyo, Japan)
Atelier Bow-Wow


Rem Koolhaas (OMA, Rotterdam, Netherlands)
Odile Decq (Odile Decq and Benoit Cornette, Paris, France)
Flavio Albanese (ASA Studio Albanese, Venice, Italy)
Archea Studios (Milan, Italy)
Eva Castro & Holger Kehne (Plasma Studio, London, England)
González﹢Sosa (Magüi González﹢José Antonio Sosa, Madrid, Spain)