Pondering Beijing's Undulating Conrad Hotel

By Dominique Wong, June 19, 2017

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Urban planning guidelines forbid the construction of “bizarre” and “odd-shaped” buildings that are devoid of character or cultural heritage. On the Block is a monthly series where we gather opinions on some of the unusual architecture that remains, from both a design and civilian viewpoint.


Conrad Hotel, Hujiajou

The Building

Conrad Hotel on Beijing’s East Third Ring Road is a striking sight, which is no easy feat, considering its famous neighbors that stretch out from the CBD. Completed in 2013, the 106-meter-high hotel stands out thanks to its undulating form and hole-patterned facade. Designers MAD Architects wanted the structure to represent a type of “living architecture,” like an organism growing out of the ground. Indeed, there is a flesh-like element to the design, which has been described by MAD as looking like a “neural network.” The exterior’s holes appear as if they’re melting – an arresting, or, if you have trypophobia (a fear of irregular patterns or clustered holes), anxiety-inducing characteristic.

The Residents’ View

We meet security guard Wei stationed near the outside of the hotel. He tells us: “From the ground, looking at the exterior, I think it looks good. I’m not from Beijing, so I’m not used to this kind of architecture and I think it’s quite special.” Passerby Chen also thinks the hotel looks “very good.” Less impressed is Li, who is waiting for a bus a little further down the road; she bluntly describes it as “rather ordinary looking.”

The Architect’s View

BiiM Design’s director Hu Shan Chun says: “MAD Architects designed a building of the future, which since its completion has become a landmark of Beijing. Its shape follows a general grid design but also uses a gradient effect, which gives the structure its cell tissue appearance. This type of pattern shows the transition between modern architecture and the architecture of the future, and illustrates the contrast between what is malleable and fixed.” Hu explains that “the building’s flexible appearance allows it to absorb into its surroundings and become a part of the fabric of the city.” 

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