Chinese architecture studio Atelier About Architecture sought to construct a flexible space for a high-profile artist to live and work. Named Apartment 55, the home is intended to be a light and compact retreat that ensures work, reception, exhibition, and daily life all work at the same time.
Sitting atop a five-story building in Beijing, Apartment 55 is a space remodeling project designed to establish its own language that is at once multi-functional while maintaining a sense of privacy and seclusion. The apartment, encompassing 300 square meters, contains a reception, an exhibition space, a studio and living quarters aside from keeping the existing courtyard. Let’s take a closer look at!
Despite the limits of the capacity of the original structure, the apartment feels open and spacious due to the use of rearranged horizontal and vertical circulation, in which a brand-new steel structure is “tied” to the original concrete frame. It not only avoids negative impact on the original structure, but also plays a certain role of enclosure. In addition to creating a flexible and light-filled space for a working artist to work, entertain and relax in, Atelier About Architecture takes a great amount of consideration on the position of the painting, the angle of the light and the vision of the artist himself.
Upon entering the apartment, one can experience the transformation of public like the reception room and exhibition room towards the semi-public and private areas — of the living room and studio — through the opening and closing of the sliding doors. The transitional spaces between the stairs and corridors also help define spaces, with the help of the windows and neutral accents to lift the darkness, which ensures that the space feels altogether bright and airy.
Picked for its visibility options and flexibility, a 5.6-meter curtain wall is used in the inner courtyard to diffuse natural light on the first floor, thus making the whole courtyard a homogeneous open-air exhibition space. By extension, joining with the reception area on the first floor, the courtyard features a large open patio skylight. The owner can thus ascend into the large studio and settle into the private space on the second floor through a staircase, hidden behind the glass facade, as a transitional space combining the courtyard and daylight.
Inside the apartment, the sense of space is enhanced by the sliding doors and glazed partitions, from which the entirety of the artist’s work unfolds.
To offer an escape from the bustle of the urban setting, the architects chose simple finishes for the floor and walls, to evoke the tranquil and melancholic beauty of a domestic studio flat. It includes nano-concrete used in the reception area, and a light gray nano-concrete floor and white wall for the whole of the second floor.
The architecture studio fashioned monochromatic interiors with nano-concrete floor, textured polished surface, and the deep brown, glossy wood in contrast to the courtyard with glaucous real stone paint, to create an atmospheric sense of ritual brought by the granular sensation of materials and the change of natural light projected from the outside.
Architects built a glazed terrace which is illuminated at night by light diffused from a glass box, which facilitates a relaxed lifestyle. The terrace provides access to sunlight, fresh air and a stunning view of urban landscape.
A Dialogue with Atelier About Architecture
NONAGON.style: In what way is the owners’ style stamped on the house?
The client is an internationally recognized high-profile artist in the world. In order not to affect his creation, he demanded his creative space to be minimalist and free of specific styles. Based on his specific requirements for life, we try to create a seemingly undesigned space, but advanced design actually hides behind the requirements.
What are the design inspirations for the home?
Our design is based on understanding and sorting out the specific needs of the owner’s life, and the design was promoted to the next level in the process.
What was the site like before the project started?
The project is located on the top floor of a traditional apartment. Before the project started, there was no studio space and we rearranged and re-created the internal spatial relationship.
What are the most interesting parts of the project?
The most interesting part about this project is it was an architectural renovation and interior design project under extremely demanding conditions (structure, load bearing, volume, etc.). We basically overturned the interior of the original apartment and rebuilt it.
Were there any major difficulties in executing this project?
The biggest challenge of this project is how to renovate and make rooms for all functions within the limits of the carrying capacity of the original structure. After reorganizing the spatial arrangement, we redefined the building and courtyard, and rearranged the horizontal and vertical circulation. The added load is controlled within 9 tons after the latest calculation of the whole structure. The brand-new steel structure is “tied” to the original concrete frame so that it can not only avoid negative impact on the original structure but also play a certain role of the enclosure.
What was the response of the owners on completion of the project?
He was completely moved by our work. After the project was completed, I expected him to discuss where his paintings should hang but he told me he didn’t plan to hang any. “The light and space of the house itself is a beautiful painting, hanging anything will ruin your work,” he said.
Which part of the house do you love the most?
Everywhere! Literally, every single detail because we have put so much effort into each detail.
What advice would you give yourself looking back at the project?
I would say it’s a really difficult project that only architects can undertake. It really takes a lot of capacity to do a project like this from start to finish. It was a project beyond my imagination, during which I also learned and gained a lot of experiences.
For more inspiring homes check out our home tours. Recent favorites include a sustainable eco-wellness home, a home from staggered blocks with Lion’s Head and Atlantic Ocean views, and a historic family home turned luxury boutique hotel.