Pierced with sunlight and armoured with bamboo and natural timber, Layering Courtyard by ARCHSTUDIO is the modern reinvention of a traditional industrial building and quadrangle near Beijing’s historic Qianmen gate. In the first half of the 20th century, during China’s republican era, the building might have been a brothel—and in later years it was a bakery, before falling into disuse. ARCHSTUDIO have reimagined the site as a tranquil multipurpose complex, where airy hotel suites are flanked by a restaurant, bar, and private entertaining areas.
The new building earned its name via its tiered layout – an architectural feature where public to private space is peeled away as you move inwards. It’s a traditional concept, concealing the living space within. ARCHSTUDIO has cleverly reworked the idea to underscore the interplay between future and past, inside and outside, artificial and natural.
Beyond the original street facing brick wall of arched windows and painted red doors are three parallel long houses, one guarding the next. The first two are single storey; the third northern building is two storeys and houses the complex’s quiet sunlit living spaces. Transparent glass walls serve to unite the three buildings, allowing scenes from one to penetrate through to the next.
Layer one is the most public, with a reception space, dining room, bar, kitchen, storage space, and an office. Original wooden beams and columns have been preserved as much as possible, while new wooden service booths divide the space. The middle house is a multifunctional space, which could be interwoven with other activities—an extension of the restaurant, or rest area for the apartments beyond. ARCHSTUDIO stuck to mostly translucent materials and furniture for the centre building to lighten its physical presence—and it sort of floats serenely between in the middle, revealing tall stalks of bamboo in slithered courtyard gardens.
ARCHSTUDIO maintained the structure of the northern building, dividing the ground floor into four separate rooms. Each room opens out onto its own bamboo courtyard. Upstairs are another three rooms of varying size where floor to ceiling glass windows have a view skyward and across the complex. All rooms are equipped with facial recognition and intelligent control system, and guests are able to book online and scan a code to check in.