MAD’s first social housing project Baiziwan integrates community into urban fabric

MAD Architects' Baiziwan Social Housing in Beijing connects the neighbourhood to the city, with 4,000 affordable households in 12 Y-shaped towers linked by an elevated public park.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Jun 29, 2022

With a strategy striving to integrate community into urban fabric as well as link neighbourhood with city, the expansive Baiziwan Social Housing becomes the first completed affordable housing project conceived by Ma Yansong-led MAD Architects. Comprising 12 Y-shaped residential towers collectively providing 4,000 households, the scheme offers dwellings for welfare dependants and young professionals. "Since its completion, almost 3000 families have moved in," reveals the Beijing-based firm. With Baiziwan, Yansong’s effort is to help diversify and variegate the typical design typologies of China’s residential housing.

MAD architects' first social housing project Baiziwan integrates abundant green spaces and a floating park | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
MAD architects' first social housing project Baiziwan integrates abundant green spaces and a floating park Image: Zhu Yumeng

The project embodies the culmination of extensive research on social housing carried out by Yansong since 2014, in the course of his own engagements and lectures held at Tsinghua University and Beijing Architecture University, and addressing the topic of affordable social housing. "Under the thematic topic The Sociality of Social Housing, (the) research focuses on the historical development and design of social housing across different countries,” shares the design team.

A graphic representation of the activities at Baiziwan Social Housing | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
A graphic representation of the activities at Baiziwan Social Housing Image: Courtesy of RUIS

Also referred to as just Baiziwan, the project rises near the Central Business District (CBD) in Beijing, China, encompassing an area of 93,900 sqm, with a total construction of 473,300 sqm. "Later, Beijing’s Public Housing Center invited Ma Yansong to design the Baiziwan Social Housing in 2014. MAD saw the commission as an opportunity to improve the living conditions of low-income communities and introduce a fresh perspective to the current dull residential design image in China," they continue.

A raised walkway connects all six blocks of the site | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
A raised walkway connects all six blocks of the site Image: Xiazhi

The large plot was apportioned into six blocks, fragmented into much smaller parts according to human scale, and anchored by a main avenue cutting through its centre. A range of commercial and convenience spaces, such as shops, cafes, restaurants, kindergartens, pharmacies, bookstores, and elder care facilities take residence in the scheme's central avenue, at street level. The arterial route formed through the centre cultivates connections between the neighbourhood and the city. "With the human-scaled site planning and diversity of spaces, the design creates a vibrant and open urban life across the new neighbourhood," relays MAD Architects.

4,000 housing units are hosted within 12 apartment blocks | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
4,000 housing units are hosted within 12 apartment blocks Image: Courtesy of CreatAR Images

As the ground floor opens up the site to the wider urban audience and context, the second level becomes a communal outdoor landscape, purely for the residents. A pedestrian circuit rendered in bright red weaves around all six blocks to link them, forming a substantial, above-ground park, a "floating garden", with a variety of communal functions including a gym, community gardens, badminton court, children’s playground, ecological sanctuary, and communal support services, to enliven the conventional-looking apartment blocks. 

A circuit of bright hued, elevated walkways weaves around the development, forming a ‘floating garden’ that hosts communal activities | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
A circuit of bright hued, elevated walkways weaves around the Baiziwan development, forming a ‘floating garden’ that hosts communal activities Image: Courtesy of CreatAR Images
View of one of the arterial roads within the Baiziwan housing | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
View of one of the arterial roads within the Baiziwan housing Image: Courtesy of CreatAR Images

Staggered half floors and semi-opened grey spaces of various scales also integrate themselves throughout the Chinese architecture. "Despite the rigid green coverage ratio of residential design specifications and the high density required for city-centre living, the scheme strives to provide green coverage on ground level, the second-level park, and rooftop, ensuring residents enjoy a holistic setting with strong connections to nature and the outdoors and achieving a green coverage of 47 per cent. The standardised green coverage of the commercial residential compounds is 30 per cent," informs Yansong.

  • The 'floating park' is interspersed heavily with abundant greens | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    The 'floating park' is interspersed heavily with abundant greens Image: Tian Fangfng
  • The above-ground park hosts a variety of communal functions including a children’s playground, public gardens, badminton court, and more | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    The above-ground park hosts a variety of communal functions including a children’s playground, public gardens, badminton court, and more Image: Zhu Yumeng
  • Inside the functional and affordable residential units | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    Inside the functional and affordable residential units Image: Zhu Yumeng

"Over the past decades, China’s residential design and market have shifted dramatically. Rapid real estate development has led to the homogenisation of residential design. Welfare-oriented housing development has not been considered a priority during the housing privatisation period. Entering the new era that China advances its investment in social housing, for existing low-income urban dwellers and influx of migrants, MAD aspires to offer a design solution for a more humane, equal, and vibrant living environment,” the Chinese architect elaborates. 

At street level, a range of commercial and convenience spaces, such as shops, cafes, restaurants, pharmacies, and more feature in the housing’s central avenue | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
At street level, a range of commercial and convenience spaces, such as shops, cafes, restaurants, pharmacies, and more feature in the housing’s central avenue Image: Zhu Yumeng

Baiziwan’s 4,000 residential units encompass six general spatial typologies, along with three ultra-low energy consumption ones, spanning areas of 40 sqm, 50 sqm, and 60 sqm. The Baiziwan Social Housing also contains three ultra-low energy consumption buildings (across two-unit typologies), also called "passive housing", with low heating and cooling loads, allowing the buildings to reduce energy consumption by a whopping 90 per cent. Light-coated board is employed for partitions between these rooms, ensuring ease of maintenance and flexibility for decoration and customisation by the residents.

  • With <i>Baiziwan</i>, Ma Yansong’s effort is to help diversify and variegate the typical design typologies of China’s residential housing | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    With Baiziwan, Ma Yansong’s effort is to help diversify and variegate the typical design typologies of China’s residential housingImage: Tian Fangfang
  • A glimpse of the housing development situated near the Central Business District (CBD) in Beijing, China | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    A glimpse of the housing development situated near the Central Business District (CBD) in Beijing, China Image: Zhu Yumeng

The firm relays that throughout the design process they aimed to ensure that each tenantable room would receive sufficient daylight, since the plot ratio of 3.5 and a height limit of 80 meters, the high density caused many restrictions on the general layout for each unit’s daylight calculation. “The resulting scheme, therefore, adopts a Y-branch building form, with communal corridors located along the north face of each building to enhance sunlight exposure in the residential units," says Yansong.

The second level of the social housing becomes a communal outdoor landscape | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
The second level of the social housing becomes a communal outdoor landscape Image: Zhu Yumeng

These "Y-shaped" footprints combine with gradual stepping forms and staggered heights, to arrive at an overall “mountain” topography across the project. The formed interfaces between buildings create semi-enclosed spaces, fostering a sense of intimacy and community. From afar, the housing’s simple white façade is provided dynamism to the undulating mountain form, cohesively becoming an enriching addition to the city’s skyline.

Functional diagram of the Baiziwan Social Housing | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
Functional diagram of the Baiziwan Social Housing Image: Courtesy of MAD

To build more sustainably and adopt a more environment-friendly construction process, the clients requested that at least 80 per cent of the housing’s elements be prefabricated off-site. According to the architects, this method allowed for a higher quality of housing production “in a controlled, systematised way.”

Vertical community diagram of the Baiziwan Social Housing | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
Vertical community diagram of the Baiziwan Social Housing Image: Courtesy of MAD

"Human is the aim of habitat. The notion encompasses dignity and social equity. The design concept for Baiziwan Social Housing integrates affordable housing communities with a universal ideal for a dignified living. It is achieved by a simple aesthetic. Baiziwan Social Housing is an important step forwards in ideal living in China,” concludes Yansong.

  • Masterplan | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    Masterplan Image: Courtesy of MAD
  • Axonometric floor plans of A1 Type (top) and E Type (bottom) | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    Axonometric floor plans of A1 Type (top) and E Type (bottom) Image: Courtesy of MAD
  • Axonometric floor plans of Y1 Type (top) and Y2 Type (bottom) | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    Axonometric floor plans of Y1 Type (top) and Y2 Type (bottom) Image: Courtesy of MAD
  • Prefabricated construction exploded diagram | Baiziwan Social Housing by MAD Architects | STIRworld
    Prefabricated construction exploded diagram Image: Courtesy of MAD

Project Details

Name: Baiziwan Social Housing
Location: Beijing, China
Area: 473,346 sqm (Total Construction Area); 303,351 sqm (Aboveground Building Area); 169,995 sqm (Underground Building Area)
Client: Beijing Public Housing Construction and Investment Center
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: MAD Architects
Principal Partners in Charge: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano 
Associate Partners: Liu Huiying, Fu Changrui
Design Team: He Xiaokang, Zheng Chengwen, Shang Li, Xu Chen, Li Guangchong, Wang Deyuan, Zheng Fang, Tong Shangren, Mujung Kang, Zhang Tingfu, Zhang Long, Zhang Kai, Kazushi Miyamoto, Yukan Yanagawa, Yu Zhipeng, Tomasz Czarnecki, Davide Signorato, Natalia Giacomino, Sear Nee, Yuan Yiwen, Steven Chaffer Park, Dookee Chung, Hiroki Fujino, Jiang Xuezhu, Chen Luman, Dina Khaki, Yang Xuebing
Design of Construction Drawings: Beijing Institute of Architectural Design
Landscape Design: Earthasia Design Group (shanghai)
Lighting Design: Beijing Ning Field Lighting Design Corp. Ltd
Signage Design: NDC China, Inc
Structure Consultant: CCDI International Design Consultants Co., Ltd.
First Stage construction: Beijing Uni.-Construction Group Co., Ltd
Second Stage Construction: Beijing Construction Engineering Group Co., Ltd
Supervisory organisation: Beijing Innovation Construction Engineering Management Co., Ltd
Prefabrication Production: Beijing Yantong Construction Components Co., Ltd

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