Text description provided by the architects. Baiziwan Social Housing (later referred to as Baiziwan) is the first affordable housing project by MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong. Located near the Central Business District (CBD) of Beijing, the project covers an area of 93.900 square meters, with a total construction area of 473,300 square meters. The project consists of 12 residential buildings that collectively provide 4000 families. Since its completion, nearly 3,000 families have moved in. The project provides housing for social welfare dependents and young professionals. The project is the culmination of an extensive research by Ma Yansong on social housing, which began in 2014. Under the thematic topic “The Sociology of Social Housing”, MAD’s research focuses on the historical development and design of social housing in various countries. The research was further developed by Ma Yansong’s affiliations with this topic while teaching at Tsinghua University and Beijing University of Architecture. Later, the Beijing Public Housing Center invited Ma Yansong to design Baiziwan Social Housing in 2014. MAD saw the commission as an opportunity to improve the living conditions of low-income communities and provide a fresh perspective on China’s current lackluster housing design picture.
open neighborhood. The MAD strategy strives to integrate the community into the urban fabric and to connect the neighborhood to the city. MAD divided the plot of land into six blocks, anchored by the main road that cuts through the center of the site. The large site is fragmented into a much smaller human scale. At street level, the scheme’s central street is home to an array of commercial and leisure spaces, such as shops, cafes, restaurants, kindergartens, pharmacies, libraries, and aged care facilities. The arterial road through the center of the scheme strengthens the links between the neighborhood and the city. With the site’s human scale planning and the diversity of spaces, the design creates a vibrant and open urban life across the new neighborhood.
floating garden. While the ground level opens the site to a wider urban audience, the second level, which is access only to residents, provides a common outdoor landscape for the residents. A pedestrian circle revolves around all six blocks, forming a large above-ground park with a variety of public functions including a gymnasium, community gardens, badminton court, children’s playground, environmental haven and community support services. In addition to the main residents garden on the second floor, the MAD scheme includes overlapping half-storeys and semi-open greyscale spaces of varying scales throughout the design. Despite the stringent green coverage ratio of residential design specifications and the high density required for downtown living, the scheme strives to provide green coverage at ground level, second level park and rooftop, ensuring that residents enjoy an inclusive setting with strong connections to nature and the outdoors and achieve a green coverage ratio of 47%. The standard green coverage rate for residential and commercial complexes is 30%.
General topography. These Y-shaped footprints combined with gradual gradations and overlapping elevations create an all-encompassing “mountainous” terrain across the site. The facade between the buildings forms semi-enclosed spaces, enhancing a sense of intimacy and community across the site on a human scale. From afar, the simple white facade and undulating mountain shape create a rich addition to the city skyline. The project’s 4,000 residential units consist of six generic models and three ultra-low energy consumption modes, spread over an area of 40 sq m, 50 sq m and 60 sq m. The light-coated clapboard is used as partitions between rooms, allowing ease of maintenance and flexibility in decoration by the residents.
Daylight right. With a plot ratio of 3.5 and a height limit of 80 meters, the high density has caused many limitations to the overall planning of calculating daylight per unit. During the design process, MAD sought to ensure that every room rented across the project received adequate sunlight. The resulting scheme thus adopts a Y-branch shaped building model, with communal corridors located along the north facade of each building to enhance the sunlight exposure of the housing units.
Prefabrication and sustainability. Given a more environmentally friendly building process, clients request that more than 80% of the building’s components are prefabricated off-site. This prefabricated method allows for higher quality housing production in an orderly and disciplined manner. The scheme contains two low energy consumption buildings, also known as “passive housing,” with low heating and cooling loads, allowing the buildings to reduce energy consumption by 90%.
Towards a new housing. Over the past decades, residential design and the market in China has shifted dramatically. The rapid development of real estate has led to the homogenization of residential design. The development of luxury housing was not considered a priority during the period of housing privatization. Entering the new era in which China boosts its investment in social housing, for the current low-income urban residents and the influx of immigrants, MAD aspires to offer a design solution for a more humane, equal and vibrant living environment.
The human being is the target of the homeland. The idea includes dignity and social justice. Baiziwan’s social housing design concept integrates affordable housing communities with a global model of dignified living. It is achieved through a simple aesthetic. Baizuan social housing is an important step forward in the ideal life in China.