Beijing 2050: grasp of future through “floating island” and “bubble hutongs”

floating island over CBD elevated above city forest. hutong bubble transformed into an extended living space. that the new will replace the old keeps being a natural law. yet we would like it be one that shares, that hopes.


Creating Beijing 2050 // A Bubbly Vision of the Future

Beijing based MAD Architectural office has designed the following concept project as it represented China in the 2006 Venice Architectural Biennale.  The concept // Beijing 2050 // three scenarios for the future of Beijingβۥa green public park in Tiananmen Square, a series of floating islands above the city’s CBD, and the “Future of Hutongs,” which featured metallic bubbles scattered over Beijing’s oldest neighborhoods.

Having the hutong’s preserved was just the beginning; for Beijing history is an invaluable asset. The city can’t be understood with a grasp of its rich history. The rapid development of the city distorted the urban development of the Old City of Beijing; the dramatic changes led to chaotic, artless, and unstructured renovations to survive the ever-changing district.  As if the above was not enough, the poor standards of hygiene had turned the unique living spaces and potential flourishing communities into a serious urban problem.  While hutongs are a haven to the wealthy and an attraction for the tourist, they were gradually becoming a dumpster for the inhabitant who had no private bathroom or shower.

Radical redesigning and small scale interventions were necessary due to the limited space, for the well being of the hutong occupants and the enhancement of their living conditions.  MAD Architects conceptualized the hutong bubbles and integrated them into the urban design scene.  The concept of the hutong bubbles is to attract visitors, activities and resources and revive the living in the district.  The bubbles co-exist with the traditional courtyard residences as their intention is to multiply radically and fulfill the occupants’ needs while allowing them to live hygienically in the old hutong neighborhoods of Beijing.  The long term goal is for these hutong bubbles to integrate into the neighborhood, the history and the people of Beijing by giving it an uplifted look by the year 2050.

   photo © MAD Architects Ltd


   photo © MAD Architects Ltd



MAD’s proposal for the future Beijing 2050 was first revealed at its exhibition MAD IN CHINA in Venice during the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale. Beijing 2050 imagined three scenarios for the future of Beijing―a green public park in Tiananmen Square, a series of floating islands above the city’s CBD, and the “Future of Hutongs,” which featured metallic bubbles scattered over Beijing’s oldest neighborhoods. Three years later, the first hutong bubble has appeared in a small courtyard in Beijing.

China’s rapid development has altered the city’s landscape on a massive scale, continually eroding the delicate urban tissue of old Beijing. Such dramatic changes have forced an aging architecture to rely on chaotic, spontaneous renovations to survive the ever-changing neighborhood. In addition, poor standards of hygiene have turned unique living space and potential thriving communities into a serious urban problem. Hutongs are gradually becoming the local inhabitants’ dumpster, the haven for the wealthy, the theme park for tourists.

The self-perpetuating degradation of the city’s urban tissue requires a change in the living conditions of local residents. Progress does not necessarily call for large scale construction – it can occur as interventions at a small scale. The hutong bubbles, inserted into the urban fabric, function like magnets, attracting new people, activities, and resources to reactivate entire neighborhoods. They exist in symbiosis with the old housing. Fueled by the energy they helped to renew, the bubbles multiply and morph to provide for the community’s various needs, thereby allowing local residents to continue living in these old neighborhoods. In time, these interventions will become part of Beijing’s long history, newly formed membranes within the city’s urban tissue.

Unexpectedly, a manifestation of this idealistic vision has sprung up in one of Beijing’s hutongs, just three years after the exhibition. Hutong Bubble 32 provides a toilet and a staircase that extends onto a roof terrace for a newly renovated courtyard house. Its shiny exterior renders it an alien creature, and yet at the same time, reflects the surrounding wood, brick, and greenery. The past and the future can thus coexist in a finite, yet dream-like world.

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 15.05.40.png

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s