Jianwai Soho Visited

If collective labor, housework, and child-rearing were the binds that drew together the proletariat population of 1950's China, then surely for today's rising middle class it is the promise of a good life enabled through consumerism. There is no better example than in Jianwai Soho, a high-end residential mixed-use development in Beijing designed by Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto. Although its private chambers are meant for China's better-heeled set, it represents as a shining example of the lifestyle that China's current labor force strives towards obtaining.

Jianwai Soho is located in Beijing's burgeoning Central Business District, close to the much publicized CCTV tower. The design encompasses 2110 dwelling units, retail space, as well as office space. It is regarded as a rather successful commercial and residential development. Upon a recent visit, it is easy to reaffirm these sentiments - the lower levels of the development are bustling with activity.


The lower levels of the complexes are filled with storefronts, which wrap around the outer streets leading to an inner sanctuary of tree-lined walkways. This continuous strip of commerce caters to residents and outside visitors alike, bringing a sort of openess to the complex unseen in many other residential developments in China.


The coherent style of the multiple towers that comprise Jianwai Soho mark its boundaries clearly within Beijing's busy cityscape.


The transparent facade reveals a range of uses for the units within the towers - some appear to be offices, others private apartments, mixed in with a splattering of workrooms as well.


In the interior of the complex there is an assortment of free-standing villas. But instead of housing wealthy single families, these are commercial villas, hosting everything from fashion boutiques to bubble tea shops to convenience stores.


The ground plane within the complex is altered at certain areas to integrate underground stores and entry to parking areas. Coupled with the three-storey villas rising above ground, these below ground areas allow the visitor to occupy the complex from various vantage points, adding dynamism to the landscape.


A view from the street reveals the basic massing of the complex - a commercial podium and residential/office towers situated on top.