Remembering the Past in the Chinese Countryside: IILab’s WAAAM

China’s landscape and cities have changed tremendously over the past few decades. But there are places that still retain their historical aspect, such as the village of Beigou, in the Huairou district just outside of Beijing. To ensure that people continue to live in villages like this, it will take revitalize the countryside, starting with developing a new sense of belonging among the inhabitants. In Beigou, two “environmental revolutions” were launched in 2007 and 2015 with this aim, carrying out the first environmental interventions and changing the attitude of the inhabitants towards their village.
To do this, in 2008 an American couple converted a glazed tile factory, a traditional industry in the region that has now been abandoned, into a hotel. The new hotel and its owners had a vision of development and cooperation in the community, and when the second round of environmental interventions began, developer 2049 Investment Group involved the Chinese architecture studio llLab in the project.
First, the architects made the former site of the village gas station a focal point, integrating local types, materials and methods of construction into a respectful modern architectural language. Then, the original tile factory hotel was renovated as a key part of Beigou village traditions and culture and an essential part of the rural reform and development process, celebrating the tradition of production of glazed tiles as part of cultural heritage. of this village at the foot of the Great Wall.
The concept behind IILab’s WAAAM is based on the construction history, the daily life of the villagers and the integration of their traditional trades. The museum is designed to commemorate Beigou’s pioneering acceptance of the challenge of reinventing the concept of the rural village through environmental development, art installations and architectural projects. This is why the building negotiates the duality of the new dynamic sense of place in the village with different ages, ideologies and cultural generations, recording the context of the past and the ambitions of the present while embracing the uncharted territory of the future. This explains the structure built around three internal thematic spaces, entitled: “Beigou Memory”, “Beigou Now” and “Beigou Future”.
“Beigou Now” welcomes visitors through the entrance of the museum, featuring functional facilities such as a cafe, community activity room and outdoor seating areas, while “Beigou Memory” is located at the base of the building historic building and includes its main exhibition spaces. The building also contains a multipurpose room on the second floor that can be used as an auditorium, temporary exhibition space or meeting room. “Beigou Future” is a tower containing an exhibition space in its main staircase, a service space on the first floor, and a terrace with a view of the Great Wall on the top floor.
IILab’s WAAAM project skilfully combines environmental, cultural and architectural development as drivers of urban revitalization and social transformation, so that Beigou Village becomes a virtuous model of a pioneering approach to rural development.

Christiane Burklein

Project: IILab
Location: Beigou Village, China
Year: 2021
Images: Arch-Exist Photography

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