TGS: the global school exhibition

Year: 2016
Size: 1,500 m2
Type: exhibition
Status: completed
Location: Beijing, China
Client: Beijing Design Week

Partners in charge: Nicola Saladino, Chen Chen, Federico Ruberto
Design team: Muzhi Chen, Xiao Liu, Yucheng Lin

The 2016 Beijing Design Week was the occasion for the official launch of The Global School, an international research and educational institute based in Baitasi focused on the development of innovative tools and methodologies for the urban regeneration of the area. During the two weeks of BJDW, the former Gongmenkou Food Market has been used as the temporary location of the school, becoming a hub for exhibitions, public lectures, seminars, workshops, presentations and many other initiatives.

This food market had been closed for more than a year and the building transformed into informal storage spaces and improvised dormitories for migrant workers. Our intervention recovered the original spatial features of the market, which are part of the collective memory of Baitasi, and transformed its linear sequence of abandoned rooms and corridors into a vibrant system of interconnected functional clusters.

The temporary nature of the centre clashed with a traditional solid architectural renovation. Rather than integrating the design content into a new polished space, we understood the roughness of the environment as an element of contrast to play with. Once we had established a critical distance, the old tiled walls and concrete counters created an interesting dialogue with the exhibited design pieces and the new furniture of the school. All the “hardware” - functional surfaces (tables, stages, benches) and new partitions – seems to emerge from the context, materializing into piles of bricks and rubber curtains that are strongly connected to the imagery of the old market. The “software” - graphic panels and physical models – instead hangs from the ceiling on multiple planes, detached from the containing walls, creating series of visual overlaps and conceptual dialogues between the different projects and the building itself.

In an environment that is essentially dark, the proposed lighting is not only functional in isolating and highlighting specific contents but also works as a way-finding system: colourful LED lines run from the entrance across the whole building indicating the paths towards all the activities in the school. A series of immersive light installations produces moments of visual intensity, attracting the visitors towards specific areas when public events are taking place.

The architectural transformation of the marketplace is more than just an intervention on the physical structure of the building. The distribution of public and semi-public functions along a continuous circulation system, where different activities take place simultaneously, separated only by flexible and semi-transparent diaphragms that invite passers-bye to peek, creates a network of functional relationships that is centred on personal interaction and truly engages with the local community.