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Competition: Revitalising Xuanxi North, Beijing

Beijing

Yanguang Real Estate has launched an international ideas competition to conserve and regenerate the historic neighbourhood of Xuanxi North in central Beijing (Deadline: 15 June)

Organised by AKIACT, the contest seeks ‘original and forward-looking’ proposals to revitalise streets and courtyards within the 13ha  district of Xuannan, famous for its literary and cultural connections.

Part of the Beijing Historic Character Harmonisation Area, Xuanxi North was a popular residence of writers, historians and scholars for more than 600 years during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It also includes the former residences of high-profile reformer Shen Jiaben and of the poet, calligrapher and intellectual activist Gong Zizhen.

The area is around 2.2km from Tiananmen Square inside the capital city’s second ring road and, like many others in Beijing, developed as a series of informal hutongs – or courtyards – connected together over the centuries.

Key landmarks within the dense urban district include the Shangxie Street thoroughfare, the Guildhalls of Taiyuan and Dongguan, and the Yang Jiaoshan Memorial Hall. Unlike similar neighbourhoods, Xuanxi North is protected from comprehensive regeneration.

According to the brief: ‘Designers need to take an original and forward-looking view of the conservation of a traditional Beijing hutong, and provide exciting and feasible remodelling schemes for the selected buildings, which would inject diversity, openness and activities into this currently run-down area.’

The document continues: ‘We would love to see bold and exciting ideas being introduced with the respect to the existing context, which has such a long history, and to improve not only the buildings but also the public and semi-public spaces in one of the oldest hutongs in Beijing.’

Beijing

Beijing

Xuanxi North contest site

Participants may submit concepts for up to two of the 10 sites selected for the competition. Proposals must preserve historic building exteriors, but other structures may be reconfigured so long as their conceptual footprints respect existing property ownership.

Alongside a general framework for improving the street layout and public spaces, specific interventions to improve sanitation and car parking are also sought.

The organiser – formally known as AKIACT United Building Science and Technology – was founded to promote collaborative learning between architectural students, academics professionals and clients.

Previous contests organised by the online platform include a ‘spiritual fortress’ information-display tower billboard for a leafy Art Deco resort in Huashan County, West Lake, Hangzhou.

The winner of the Xuanxi North competition – set to be announced on 16 July – will receive 75,000 yuan (approximately $12,000) and will be invited to negotiate for a design development and construction contract.

Three second place teams will receive 30,000 yuan ($4,500) and five third place participants will take home 15,000 yuan ($2,300) each. The runner-up teams will also be considered for other future developments in similar areas in China.

The judging panel will include representatives from Yanguang Real Estate and experts in architectural design, urban planning and cultural preservation.

How to apply

Application deadline

23:59pm local time (CST) on 15 June

Contact details

AKIACT United Building Science and Technology

Email: team@akiact.com

View the competition announcement for more information

Beijing

Beijing

Xuanxi North contest site

Scottish Poetry Library case study: Q&A with Malcolm Fraser

The founder of Malcolm Fraser Architects discusses the practice’s contextual regeneration of a historic court in Edinburgh Old Town

Founder of Malcolm Fraser Architects

Founder of Malcolm Fraser Architects

Malcolm Fraser

How did your Scottish Poetry Library respond to its historic physical and cultural context?

Medieval Scottish towns were built on steep slopes, around narrow closes and social courts, and beautifully exploited those slopes and yards. I wanted to extend such old patterns to make them work for contemporary concerns around light and gathering and connectivity; thus the fore stair as a wee poets’ parliament, the terrace with its view up to Salisbury Crags – part of the extinct volcano at Edinburgh’s heart – and the general concentration on sunshine and gathering. There was also a fragment of medieval wall to the northern rear of the site and the building snuggled warm into it, while opening-up to the pedestrian close, sunshine and view. I also worked with artists, particularly poet and library founding director Tessa Ransford, whose 1,000 favourite phrases from Scottish poetry etched in the building showed the art of poetry intertwined with landscape, and artist, poet and philosopher Ian Hamilton Finlay, who helped me to understand the interconnectedness of word, landscape and building.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

The Scottish Poetry Library by Malcolm Fraser Architects

What material and other techniques are available to architects?

Too much high-profile contemporary architecture seeks to impose its art upon a building and brief; instead when building for the arts I look for an architecture that studies its art form and finds beauty and practicality out of honouring it. Look at how people have built there before. What patterns did they follow and why? Where can life, for a contemporary place, be found in them? And how did they see the world, and what does that mean for contemporary cultural meaning that can deepen and enrich a new proposal?

How might competitors harness Xuanxi North’s historic built environment to promote new diversity, openness and activities within this run-down area?

I love Beijing’s hutongs. Their patterns of building balance climate and natural forces and are a microcosm of the same patterns writ large in the Emperor’s Forbidden City – themselves a reflection of the heavens above. And I’m sure Xuanxi North’s historic fabric is full of stories. It is the duty and beauty of architecture to retell them.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

The Scottish Poetry Library by Malcolm Fraser Architects