Standard Architecture Visited

A view of Standard's office going into management offices.

 

Standard Architecture, led by Zhang Ke in Beijing, has led multiple explorations into resolving current housing issues in China through innovative architecture. They have exhibited at several architecture biennials in China to spread the word about these issues and highlight them through provocative proposals. A while back, their "egg house" project was extensively covered in the media when one of their employees actually lived in one for a month in a Beijing parking lot. The house sought to comment on the plight of the ant tribe, young college graduates whom move to large cities and can only afford housing in inadequate and cramped conditions on the outskirts of the city.

 Standard's offices stand in contrast to the other buildings in the complex.

 

The office is converted from a former factory space near Wudaoko, Beijing.

 

An office divider also serves as an informal pin-up wall.

 

I visited Standard in order to learn more about one of their current projects, the Social Theater Housing. The project is part of the exhibition 'Housing with a Mission: Dutch and Chinese Architects' for the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennial. Along with five Chinese and five Dutch firms, the project is done in conjunction with the Netherlands Architecture Insitute and Vanke, the largest residential real estate developer in China.

I sat down for an interview with Roberto Caputo, project manager of the Social Theater Housing. The building itself is part of a masterplan to be located in northern Beijing. The standout feature of the building is the large void carved out of the volume, a response to a regulation stating that a certain percentage of the building must be public space. Standard chooses to make the public space available to the whims and demands of not only residents but also outside visitors, resulting in a void featuring two different slopes that serve as seating. Because of how Beijing residents make use of every open space available to them, Roberto believes that opening the space to outsiders will ensure its vitality. Roberto also describes the formation of the playful facade - the varying patterns of fenestration hides the different positioning of the AC units hidden behind.

With such architectural devices, Standard hopes that the Social Theater Housing project will serve as a model for social housing in China, as such a typology is currently sorely missing and needed in Chinese cities. By ensuring that the building is of high architectural quality and engages the public through its form, Standard wants to dispel the notion that social housing is of poor quality and detrimental to the image of China's booming cities.

 

 

A rendering of the Social Theater Housing project shows clearly where its name comes from.

 

The project is part of a masterplan involving five Chinese architects and five Dutch architects, all in hopes of addressing current housing problems facing young college graduates in China.

 

A model of the building displayed at the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennial.