A recent addition to Beijing’s artist colony embodies ancient and modern China: rural seclusion and rapid urbanisation
The romantic image of the artist is a lone figure struggling in a garret. But this is rarely the case: for many, isolation is not conducive to creativity, whereas community allows for the exchange of ideas and inspiration. The enduring popularity of artists’ colonies is testimony to this: from Giverny to Provincetown, artists have fled cities to settle where life can be reorganised around communal creative labour – and crucially, with cheaper rents. Today, one of the most substantial artists’ colonies in the world is 20km from Beijing in the suburb of Songzhuang. This was established by a group of artists who relocated from the inner suburbs 20 years ago. It embodies ancient and modern aspects of Chinese culture: the long tradition of the artist-scholar leaving the city for rural seclusion, and the more recent process of urbanisation that has devoured formerly peripheral areas of Chinese cities, rendering them insufficiently isolated for such purposes.
Thanks to the booming Chinese art market, Songzhuang now thrives, with around 2,000 artists in residence. This recent addition to the colony is by Berlin studio Knowspace, which was commissioned to design a complex for a pair of artists who desired individual homes and workspaces arranged in close proximity around a private courtyard. Saw-toothed roofs allow for the top lighting of the studio blocks, with garages on the ground floors.
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Source: LV Hengzhong