By Ole Scheeren © Buro-OS
Studio ZX is an Artist’s Studio building for a prominent Chinese landscape painter and antiques collector that formulates new relationships between the historical and the contemporary, the picturesque and the narrative, the natural and the man-made. An authentic Chinese courtyard house, a traditional Chinese garden and a collection of objects/elements in the landscape together created the context for this project in the outskirts of Beijing.
How to connect a new structure with the historical, to introduce an autonomous object in the landscape that also melds with its surroundings, and to craft a functional space for creativity that is also a contemplative retreat?
The Studio ZX building consists of a 6-meter clear-height Painting Studio, an Exhibition Gallery, a Lounge/Reception, an Office/Study, and an Art Archive, totaling 1,600 square meters. A new Sunken Courtyard – bracketed on one side by a bird cage and on the other side a fish pond – forms an axial relationship to the courtyard of the authentic historical house. Adjacent to the Sunken Courtyard is the sky-lit Exhibition Gallery, which provides a direct underground connection to the historical house. The Studio building itself is lifted above this Sunken Courtyard and slightly elevated from the surrounding traditional Chinese landscape. Three rectangular nozzles penetrate the rectangular volume of the Studio building, serving as multiple circulatory connectors that extend into the surrounding gardens, the Sunken Courtyard, and the historical house; a second set of nozzles pointing skywards serve as directional apertures that funnel natural daylight into the Painting Studio and provide diffuse illumination for the 13-meter wide painting wall inside. Overlooking the Painting Studio from the mezzanine level is a lofted Office/Study, where a full-height panoramic window offers views towards the historical house and the adjacent river beyond.
By lifting the building volume, carving out a Sunken Courtyard, and extending the nozzle-connectors into the landscape, multiple non-linear paths are created that link the Studio to the meandering walkways of the surrounding Chinese garden and nature. At the same time, visitors to the studio can be taken on a choreographed ‘loop’ that winds itself around the courtyard of the historical house, upwards into the studio, into the landscaped gardens, through the Sunken Courtyard and Exhibition Gallery, and finally back to the main entrance of the compound.
The building exterior is clad with modular hexagonal tiles whose irregular and asymmetrical three-dimensional geometry defies a sense of simple visual repetition. Not unlike the natural “scholar stones” in the artist’s collection that populate the landscape, the roughly tiled building surface generates a skin that is organic, rock-like, partly shimmering and partly matte – an irrational and sensual cloak that changes color, texture, and appearance with the shifting conditions of the Beijing sky. The south wall of the building – a 13-meter wide painting wall on the inside which will be covered in a mirror-like metal cladding on the outside, reflecting the surrounding Chinese garden – will act as a theoretical ‘threshold’ between the projection (painting) and reflection (mirroring) of nature.