Location: Beijing, China.

Architect: Buro Ole Scheeren.

The Guardian Art Center is a new hybrid cultural institution located in the heart of Beijing, built on the doorstep of the historic Forbidden City. It is the world’s first custom-built auction house and offers museum quality galleries, state of the art conservation facilities, restaurants, a hotel, flexible event spaces, and integrated public transport infrastructure. The building is a synthesis of Beijing’s heritage and future, carefully inscribed into its surrounding context in a sensitive architectural interpretation that fuses history and tradition with a contemporary vision. The lower portion of the building subtly refers to the adjacent historic urban fabric, while the upper portion responds to the larger scale of the surrounding contemporary city in the form of a floating ‘ring’ that creates an inner courtyard to the building. The building’s facades take on a specific role in its cultural expression and Chinese integration, with materiality, color, and texture establishing abstract and subtle correspondence with Chinese symbols and meaning. At the center of the building, a 1,700 square meter column-free exhibition space allows for maximum flexibility and versatility, while expansive exhibition areas on the second floor further extend the museum. The building is, at its core, a machine for exhibitions and events, with two main column-free spaces that enable a multitude of uses. Surrounding the central halls is an extended realm of smaller gallery spaces and supplementary support functions. The project navigates between the neutral and the specific, combining aspects of both by providing large scale spaces that are flexible and convertible, along with a collection of interconnected more intimate spaces for specific functions of distinct character. The emphasis on versatility and variety reflects the Guardian Art Center’s remit as a diverse and inclusive public space, proclaiming a new hybrid cultural institution.

Photo credit: Guardian Art Center by Ole Scheeren © Buro-OS.Photos by Iwan Baan, Alex Fradkin, Shu He and Buro-OS (files marked accordingly)..