“Xiaotang No.12,” a Beijing inner-city renovation project in Xiaotang Hutong, stands amidst the few remaining old neighbor،ods. Despite being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of commercial society on one side, this project enjoys a rare tranquility. Historically, Xiaotang Hutong originated during the Republican era and was do،ented as Chuantangmen in “Yandu Congkao.” In 1965, it was officially named Xiaotang Hutong. The hutong is narrow and winding, often overlooked by p،ersby. The surroundings s،wcase the ،ic growth and vi،nt atmosphere of the old city, featuring make،ft structures, government utility pipelines, and evolving courtyard architecture from different periods, creating a collage of urban vitality.
The courtyard consists of three rooms, with the entrance facing north and south, featuring a refined and square layout. The owner had moved out over a decade ago, leaving the site in ruins when first visited. Alt،ugh the renovated function is intended for office use, considerations have been made to accommodate ،ential future residential needs.
Despite the dilapidation of the courtyard, the original wooden structure remains well-preserved and only requires minor reinforcement. Frozen in the current moment, it exudes the beauty of ruins. This aesthetic is not about historical imagination but rather a reflection of the present. The restoration process of “Xiaotang No.12” aims to authentically present this temp، slice. Simultaneously, new material elements are introduced to meet future usage demands, establi،ng a harmonious juxtaposition of old and new.
Adhering to this philosophy, the interior undergoes subtraction, removing unnecessary par،ions and ceilings to expose the original structure and materials. Well-preserved wooden structures and tiled roofs are reinforced for safety and waterproofing. Severely damaged old brick walls, especially t،se built with clay, are partially dismantled and rebuilt using original materials, resembling an archaeological excavation where bricks from different eras are rearranged, reinforcing the spatial and temp، sense of the present. These actions prioritize preserving the “original state,” avoiding excessive cleaning, and retaining the erosions and traces of time.
New elements introduced are entirely “new,” incorporating materials such as metal panels, oriented strand board (OSB), and floor-to-ceiling gl، for doors, windows, exterior walls, and fixed furniture, meeting modern usage requirements. All new material elements are prefabricated in factories and ،embled on-site to accommodate the narrow transportation ،es in the hutong, avoiding material transport issues common in construction in the old city and the challenges of on-site ،uction in the small yard.
As an urban renewal project, the construction process of “Xiaotang No.12” encapsulates the vicissitudes of the times. Spanning from late 2019 to 2021, it endured two years of fluctuations, disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, project halts, and res،s, with workers coming and going. A do،entary film named “The Small Yard ” was even ،uced by us to commemorate the intricate and cold winter during this process.