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Located 30 miles from Beijing, in an unsuspecting village that seems more like a rural out-back, lies an artists community that is thriving in the international arena. Its population of over 200 Chinese artists is represented by major galleries in the United States, France, and Germany – among other places. While having achieved critical notoriety at an international scale, the community still needed a public institution or space to act as a magnet for interaction, a place for the presentation of art, or a setting for receptions and openings. 

A consortium of artists, critics, and agents – the clients – joined forces to acquire a property and put together a program for Tongxian art, an arts complex that acts as a base for a visiting international audience. Phase I of the project is the gatehouse, which consists of housing and studio space for the artists-in-residence. Phase II houses the public spaces, sculpture courts, administrative spaces, and infrastructural needs of the institution. 

Instead of planning a building with “idealized” rooms and corridors, it has appropriated the limited but vital space underneath stairs as a vehicle for circulation passages. The appearance of distorted cracks in the elevations emerge from calculating the necessary headroom for passageways, the necessary tread and riser relationship of the stairs, and the minimization of any other subsequent wasted adjacent space – hence the metaphor of shrink-wrapping or vacuum forming. 

The Gatehouse is conceived as a brick monolith that has been shrink-wrapped or vacuum formed into shape. Regional culture and sustainable practices are incorporated through the use of local brick and native Chuzumu wood on the exterior. This surface and those of the interior test the possible interactions between brick, concrete, and plaster. 

Principle in Charge: Nader Tehrani

Project Design: Nader Tehrani, Monica Ponce De Leon

Project Coordinators: Michael Tunkey, Timothy Clark

Project Team: Kristen Giannattasio, Tali Buchler, Hansy Luz Better, Christine Mueller, Achille Rossini, Jeff Asanza, Julian Palacio


Photographers: Dan Bibb, Nader Tehrani

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