The Shadow: Reinventing the Beijing Courtyards


People’s behavior depends on two factors: their individual purposes and the universal traits of human beings.The character of behaviors effects and decides the relationship between different spaces.


In Beijing’s traditionalvalue, Hutong is not only a traffic area but also a place to stay. The further you go inside a Hutong, the more private the spaces gets. The doors of each quadrangle dwellings become the divider between private and public area.


Originally, each quadrangle dwelling only holds one family. However, when the dwellings evolve into compounds occupied by multiple households, the courtyards inside each dwellings, which were supposed to be private, have become shared areas. Yet, even so, the concept of their commonality is still quite ambiguous.People start to add shared kitchens and put their own items inside the courtyards. This is a behavior that shows the two-sided characteristic of the dwellings. A neighbor can see a dwelling as a common space because it is shared by many different families, but he or she can also see it as a private space since it gives a different atmosphere than sidewalks or plazas. Therefore, Beijing’s dwellings are special, for they blend the line between public and private. They have created an atmosphere of trust that bounds families together, and thus, have formed the unique old Beijing Hutong community. When we hand down a dwelling to a stranger, the spirit of that dwelling should be preserved, especially for a place that is not just for living but also for other purposes such as working. In our design, the holder can control how much the space is open or personal.


Under this condition, the city or the general public can be invited inside the courtyards in the will of the people who work or live there. This changeable commonality also can be shown in the indoor area. As we create a controllable ambiguity between public and private, we expanded the potential of different possible use of the space and how the place is displayed to the city. The weights of public and private space can be slidably controlled by the movable elements. The function will be casually added or reduced while adjusting the proportion of working and living space. To add the adjustable lever in front of the historical construction, considering the reality as the shadow of the history, webuild a“ Shadow” in the time shuttle.

Project Name

The Shadow: Reinventing the Beijing Courtyards


city renovation



Site Area


Project Area


Time of design




KKL Partnership Architects