The art residency of Ai Weiwei in Caochangdi has created a tipping point between an urban village and an art community, epitomizing Beijing's polycentric nature.
Contemporary attempts to develop Beijing saw art become a commodifiable mechanism, shaping the city in the form of an Art Kaifachu (Art Development). The Kaifachu of 798 district saw a large piece of Beijing branded under the name of art, driving out artists for the rental capacity, thus standing as a contradiction; a wholistic sentiment in a city which did not develop wholistically.
The project opposes the nature of the Art Kaifachu within the context of Caochangdi by revealing and making sense of Beijing as a city of fragmentation and hybrid landownership.
A sharpened definition of urban space reveals urban activity as not contained to a binary condition of ‘building or street’ in the westernised sense, urban living exists as a state between architecture, where the figure does not precede the ground. This allows wild mixtures and continuous juxtapositions between a village and art community; “a mule cart rolls past a Bentley and into an impromptu market”

The project formalises this reading of Caochangdi, designing instances of juxtapositions; acting as an urban poche to propel integration between these neighbourhoods, for example introducing shared spaces in the city; a courtyard serving both the local mechanic and the entrance to an international exhibition of Ai Weiwei's Forever Bikes.
In so doing the project acts as a continuation of Caochangdi's narratives and is an approach in which architecture addresses the incoherences of the city.
At this tipping point, through this revised notion of architecture as both figure and ground to the city we discuss the development of Caochangdi from within its own social political and economic histories.


The image of Caochangdi is divided; the roughness of a village exists in simultaneity with the high art design language of Ai Weiwei.

City Axonometric

The project works across the current divide in Caochangdi, reading the Red Brick Galleries as a continuous fluctuation between an interpretation of the building as object and its reinterpretation as texture.1 Thus the design shifts from a consideration of the gallery as object to its various forms juxtaposition in the city as texture incorporating its fragments into a continuous ground.
1.(Rowe, Colin. Collage City. MIT Press, 1983. pg 77)

City Planometric

This representation allows the discussion of the project through its action as a poche and describes the proposal at the same resolution as the city. In this planometric we see two moments of juxtaposition; from the gallerys street edge existing as a sharp threshold, to focus negotiations between the gallery and village internal to the block (which already fosters much of the life of Caochangdi) held through mutual courtyards defining new entrance points from the village block to the gallery interior.

City Oblique

This oblique projection discusses how the design works in sequential determination to integrate the main market street within the gallery courtyard, a continuation of its axis is felt, again too, a continuation of its narratives implied. Along the axis from north to south: from a courtyard existing both as a face of domesticity but as a storage overspill for un-exhibited abandoned works of art. To the end of the axis in which street vendors set up stalls under the frame canopies articulating between the gallery to the shops at a moment of simultaneous juxtaposition. Visited by residents local to Caochangdi and visitors of art alike.

City Poche

This western technique of deciphering figure to ground is at once recalled within the context of Caochangdi, translated as a technique to approach the form of the city through a filter, as a process to both reveal the nature of its architecture, which this representation allows, and to demonstrate the potential of its architecture.

Tectonic Plan

In this tectonic plan the 3D reality of the spaces can only be understood in the shadow cast on the materiality of the surface, the form of the design is collapsed to its abstract geometric in so doing the elements of form work at the same level as floor tiles allowing a tectonic study of the project. In which two neighbourhoods of the city may orient around the mutual usage of a singular stretch of pavement, or may act to allow for undefined moments in the city in which the paving of village to gallery becomes simultaneous.

Tracing the project through its curation of art

This technique of representation allows us to trace the project at a cultural level through its art.
The project curates an exhibition of Ai Weiweis principle installations into the designed gallery spaces. The gallery spaces offered in these renders are not white gallery spaces but offer the view of its art through shifting contexts, at some views offering a link to the everyday life that work itself is evidencing.
This view looks past a courtyard of mutual usage to this exhibition and the village beyond to the installation Stools, in which 6,000 antiques stools evidence the very items and everyday life juxtaposed in the courtyard adjacent.


This view shows an exhibition of the work Bang, 886 antique stools are aligned to architecture left at the same level of abstraction as the art itself; a trace of the frame of the village architecture.


The view shows an exhibition of Ai Weiweis Forever Bikes,
The canopy offered by the frame in its simultaneous juxtaposition from village to gallery identifies undefined areas of the city, opening themselves for impromptu activities which take place along the streets of Caochangdi from the selling of coal to the storage of bikes.


A view from within the gallery courtyard with its horizon landing on a street scene.