Guo He Lou Theatre Complex

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Axonometric site and building view of

Location: Beijing, China. Qian Men - Historic Commercial District

This project proposes a design model for the reconstruction of a traditional theater complex in the Qian men area of Beijing. It will serve as a model to restore the community identity and culture of democracy; and repair the traditional urban fabric in historic Beijing

-This project is located in the Qian men area, which has always been the most famous commercial area in Beijing. This area was the birth of Peking Opera and used to be the performing arts and cultural center of historic Beijing, and therefore the performing center of China. The current condition of Qian men area is dramatically different than before, the cultural prosperity is long gone as China has had to undergo long-term struggles in order to accept modernity. To integrate the past as a living tradition in today's society is an inevitably painful intellectual experience. It can also be socially disruptive and politically sensitive. As a result, Qian men no longer has its cultural meaning and magnetism; most civic buildings, especially old theaters are no longer in use.

-This project strives to not only reconstruct a single building but a also a complex that will suit numerous functions aimed at different groups. The complex includes: Teahouse Theater, Temple Theater, play school, breakfast shop, retail shops, restaurant, snack bars, offices, and other supportive spaces. The complex will operate 24/7. Each part/function will operate at different time periods to serve different groups. For instance: the breakfast shop will be open from early morning until noon; the play school will be open during the day to students, faculty, and guests; the Teahouse Theater will be open from late-morning until mid-afternoon - mostly for senior citizens watching informal performances; the Temple Theatre will host formal opera performances at night for a wider public audience. The variety of the functions within one building complex is one of the main characteristics of traditional Chinese civic buildings - it maximizes the community diversity and interaction of people on a daily basis.

-The different areas of the complex will come together to create a vibrant civic life which has been non-existent for over thirty years. The reconstructed theater complex complex will also bear its political responsibility to help to realize ordinary citizens' dream of a higher quality of life.

-The new theater complex will help bring back Qian men's unique cultural identity. The project's goal is to reclaim tradition, not just simply reconstruct a traditional structure.

The project provides a design strategy using vernacular architectural language to design a "modernized" building which can fit in the historic urban fabric. The goal is to achieve a balanced design. On one hand, it can satisfy the fast-development demands, on the other it can reinforce community identity and abundant civic life.

-Therefore the primary focus of this design (theater complex) has been the character and quality of the public space and the civic activities - both to establish the controlling framework for determining the the spatial relationship of individual buildings and to achieve qualitative goals.

-The building typology used in the theater complex is based on Beijing's traditional public temple theater. Typically 2-3 stories tall, while ornamentation is unique from adjacent buildings. This typology defines the public realm of the city by establishing a street wall to define the block edge, while also providing several semi-public spaces inside of the complex that act as knots to connect different users. Those semi-public spaces adapt the traditional courtyard. The individual portions also use vernacular/traditional design to seamlessly blend within the context.

Beyond the primary intention to repair the urban fabric of the area, the project seeks to define a strategy to adapt and re-use those abandoned historic structures that exist on the site.

Transect Zone(s): T6 core.
Status: Proposed
Project or Plan's Scale: Building
Features: Civic buildings & parks.
Land area (in acres): 1
Total built area (in sq. ft.):
Total project cost (in local currency):
Retail area (in sq. ft.):
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Civic uses (type and size): 80,000 Square feet - Restaurant, Theatre, Shops
Parks & green space (in acres):
Project team designers: Kai Hu, University of Notre Dame
Project team developers: Kai Hu, University of Notre Dame

Previous site status:

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: -