MAD Architects Unveils Affordable Housing in Beijing

Beijing-based MAD Architects is best known for its completed and ongoing projects in Los Angeles: a green-shrouded mountaintop village in Beverly Hills, a biomorphic cable car-edge office building that will tower over Sunset Boulevard, and a spaceship-cumshotmuseum that will land in Exposition Park next year with considerable delay.

Returning home, the Ma Yansong-led company recently unveiled Baiziwan (Baiziwan Social Housing), a sprawling affordable housing development with 12 residential towers and more than 23 acres on the edge of Beijing’s central business district. MAD has announced the project, which is open to young professionals and citizens receiving aid from the state, as “an important step forward [sic] ideal living in China.”

(CreatAR images)

First commissioned in 2014 by the Beijing Public Housing Center, an entity that ranks as the largest owner and operator of public rental housing in the Chinese capital, Baiziwan marks the first-ever completed affordable housing project for MAD and is described by the company as being the ‘culmination point’ of Yansong’s international-in-scope research into social housing development and design.

Dubbed “The Sociality of Social Housing,” MAD’s research is further substantiated by Yansong’s “own engagement with the topic while teaching at Tsinghua University and Beijing Architecture University,” as the company noted in a press release. With the Beijing Public Housing Center committee, MAD embraced the “opportunity to improve the living conditions of low-income communities and provide a new perspective on the current dull image of residential design in China.”

aerial view of a large residential building in beijing
Twelve medium and high-rise residential towers are spread over six blocks, with a central road through the middle. (ArchExist)
an outdoor sports field with high stepped towers in the background
A network of green spaces forms a kind of open-air mezzanine that is only accessible to residents. (Make AR)

The company has elaborated:

“Over the past decades, the design and market for housing in China has changed dramatically. Rapid real estate development has led to the homogenization of housing design. Welfare-oriented housing was not considered a priority during the privatization period. MAD is entering the new era in which China is promoting its investment in social housing, for existing low-income urban dwellers and the influx of migrants, and strives to provide a design solution for a more humane, equal and vibrant living environment.”

Divided into six blocks to fragment the immense scale of the development, Baiziwan’s dozens of Y-shaped apartment buildings house a total of 4,000 households — the ground floor has been 75 percent occupied since its completion earlier this year. A wide and leafy avenue that runs through the middle of Baiziwan is lined with an array of shops, restaurants, schools, medical clinics, aged care facilities and much more. While the street level is open to all, the residents of Baiziwan also have exclusive access to an elevated pedestrian walkway that winds through the compound, merging all six blocks and encompassing a swath of elevated parkland complete with playgrounds, community gardens, sports fields, and an “ecological sanctuary.” .”

people and dogs gather on the street in a residential area in Beijing
Despite its immense size, the development is designed to promote social interaction at street level. (Zhu Yumeng)

Between the greenery offered at street level, the “floating gardens” associated with the pedestrian circuit and the vegetation-covered rooftops, Baiziwan’s total green coverage is 47 percent – a full 17 percent higher than the standard for residential developments in Beijing. , according to the company.

As for the 4,000 residential units themselves, they range between approximately 430 square feet and 646 square feet and enjoy plenty of natural light thanks to the Y-shaped footprint of each tower. The white-clad towers, built mainly of prefabricated elements, vary in height and their stepped shapes evoke what MAD has called a “mountain” topography in the heart of Beijing. A pair of towers enjoys “ultra-low energy consumption” and is built to passive design standards.

view of a busy tree-lined street with elevated walkways above
Baiziwan’s amenities-lined main artery bisects the 12-towered development, while pedestrian walkways float above it. (Make AR)

As noted by MAD, which has offices in LA and Rome in addition to Beijing, the design concept for Baiziwan Social Housing integrates “affordable housing communities with a universal ideal for dignified living.”

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