Ding Hui Yuan, a former factory space in Beijing, has been reconstructed and transformed into a traditional Zen & Tea Chamber. Its soft, subtle design is a successful preservation of Zen Buddhist notions of beauty: something that is simple, imperfect and transient. In pursuing this philosophy, architect He Wei has rejected ostentation for minimalist materials, converting the space into a fresh, peaceful environment.
The designs of He Wei present a modern take on ancient Eastern architecture. Reminiscent of Chinese private gardens, famous for their framed glimpses of scenery, the renovated space now encourages a piece-by-piece appreciation of natural beauty. Slatted wooden panels alleviate the divide between inside and out, allowing natural light to flow into the interior whilst offering a different perspective at every step.
The paneled façade of the building is cut with an elegant, circular opening. By framing a lone-standing tree, this circular window becomes submerged in the summer and then is left bare in the winter – with the exception of a few dark branches. The shadow play in the inner passage is therefore always changing, representing Zen philosophy’s fascination with the transient nature of things, and the belief that the world is locked into a constant cycle of life and death.
The core of Ding Hui Yuan’s design lay in restructuring its circulation. A long, winding entry path has replaced the previously direct staircase, encouraging a slow-paced entry into the Zen Chamber. Once inside, luminous walls provide warm, yellow lighting. The building’s interior is fit for meditation, bland in color and smooth in texture. A large calligraphic scroll deigns the Tearoom’s wall in traditional Zen style, while simple mats are laid down on the floor. Courtyard gardens were traditionally considered part of the tearoom, and therefore it has been well maintained in its natural state – left for visitors to enjoy at different times and from different perspectives.
Built to be harmonious with its surroundings, like a traditional Chinese garden, He Wei’s design carefully balances the interplay between natural and artificial light to flatter the space’s irregular, anti-symmetry.
Inside the Better Lift Carpark,
Dinghui North Bridge, West Fourth Ring Road