Hutong Metabolism: ZAO/standardarchitectureWith contributions by Farrokh Derakhshani, Mohsen Mostafavi, Kenneth Frampton, Martino Stierli, Nondita Correa Mehrotra, Zhang Ke, Kristin Feireiss, Hans-Jürgen Commerell, Amanda Ju
Aga Khan Award for Architecture / ArchiTangle, September 2021
Hardcover | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 288 pages | 150 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783966800150 | €38
Small stone hutongs, built within a courtyard-and-alley system, are emblematic of Beijing’s traditional inner-city architecture which still contends with modern, cooperate redevelopments to shape the character of the city. In one of the oldest cities in China, the important tasks of preservation and revitalization require particular sensitivity. Captured at the centre of the battlefield between development, conservation and renovation, the hutongs, on the verge of erasure, call into question the paradoxical nature of these paradigms.
The Micro Hutong Renewal series by ZAO/standardarchitecture focusses on small structures which residents have added to hutong courtyards in the last 60 years. The anchor project of this publication is the Hutong Children’s Library & Art Centre, which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2016.
A foreword from the Aga Khan Award director, Farrokh Derakhshani, and a series of photographs and drawings by the architect will present this project alongside another project from the series; The Micro Hutong and Co-living Courtyard, as well as ZAO/standardarchitecture’s social housing projects in the center of Beijing. In addition, scholarly essays from across disciplines will explore alternative perspectives of China’s historical cities and the challenges they face.
I have never been to China, so my exposure to the country's contemporary architecture happens through websites, videos, magazines, books, and the occasional exhibition. The latter introduced me to the architecture of Zhang Ke and his studio ZAO/standardarchitecture (ZAO), first at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and most recently at the Museum of Modern Art in Reuse, Renew, Recycle, on display for another month in the museum's free ground-floor gallery. Both exhibitions included models of projects from ZAO's "Hutong Metabolism" series of projects that make small-scale interventions in the traditional hutongs (residential alleys/courtyards) of Beijing. A large-scale immersive model of Micro Yuan’er Children’s Library and Art Centre was on display in Venice, while MoMA displayed the concrete model of Micro Hutong that it acquired for its archive. Both are beautiful, small-scale projects whose qualities come to the fore in the models and in this book documenting them and two more hutong projects.
Co-Living Courtyard and Hutong Social Housing. Apparently, the impetus for the book was Zhang Ke receiving the Aga Khan Award in 2016 for Micro Yuan'er, the first of the Hutong Metabolism projects, which continued with the other projects in the book. The last project in the book (the four projects are presented in chronological order by completion date), Hutong Social Housing, was completed in November 2019, but as Kenneth Frampton reveals in his introductory essay, "ingeniously planned and partially realized on two separate sites [it] remains, as yet, not only unoccupied but also partially unfinished." No doubt China being thrown into lockdown at the end of 2019 contributed to the in-limbo status of Zhang Ke's most recent Hutong project.
- "Big Messy Courtyard: Micro Yuan'er," in Assemble Papers, issue #9
- Chinese Brutalism Today: Concrete and Avant-Garde Architecture by Alberto Bologna (ORO Editions, 2019)
- "The Chinese Attitude Towards the Past" by Simon Leys in The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays (NYRB, 2013)
- Contemporary Architecture in China: Towards A Critical Pragmatism edited by Li Xiangning (Images Publishing, 2018)
- Ying-Zào: Hutong Metabolism+ (Aedes, 2021)