Jianfu Palace Museum
Tradition and contemporary intervention peacefully coexist in an icon of Chinese culture and memory.
The project involved adaptive reuse of four historic buildings at the Forbidden City’s Jianfu Palace Garden of Established Happiness Museum and Visitor’s Center in Beijing.
Preservation of the past was achieved through resurrection of historic buildings and furniture-making techniques.
Jianfu palace now serves as both a reception center for visiting dignitaries and as a museum of Chinese architecture with flexible exhibit space for artifacts, photos, and drawings. Central to the permanent exhibit are the ‘bones’ of the main pavilion which were purposefully left exposed to reveal the beauty of traditional engineering and techniques of craft.
A key intervention was the addition of a staircase to the main pavilion’s upper levels (which had historically been used only for storage) now affords expansive views over the Forbidden City. Tsao & McKown also celebrated the few remaining traces of the original complex by creating a floating floor which preserves the ruined stone below and allows visitors glimpses through a series of reveals around the columns and at the perimeter. Woods for the new floor and stairs were chosen to complement those of the hand-hewn historical structure, but were planed smooth and given a light sheen. This semi-reflective finish at once denotes the structure’s contemporary heritage and honors the surroundings by evoking a dematerializing effect.
Physical ContextGoogle Earth View
Physical ContextForbidden City
HistoryThe Seat of Power
Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang
Seat of supreme power for over five centuries (1416-1911), the Forbidden City in Beijing, with its landscaped gardens and many buildings (whose nearly 10,000 rooms contain furniture and works of art), constitutes a priceless testimony to Chinese civilization during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Sketches and Notations
Construction of the Forbidden City
Construction of the Jianfu Palace Garden
Jianfu Palace Garden destroyed by fire.
China Heritage Fund begins reconstruction of the Jianfu Palace Garden.
Tsao and McKown Architects in collaboration with Pei Partnership Architects begin designing the architectural interiors of the reconstructed Jianfu Palace Garden.
Opening of the reconstructed Jianfu Palace Garden.
ArticleArchitectural Record: Dialogue in Time
ArticleMetropolis Magazine: A Forbidden Garden Restored
ArticleArchitectural Record: Historic Preservation
ArticleInterior Design: Best of Year, Government
ArticleInternational Herald Tribune: New Life for a Famous Garden
ArticleForbidden City: Destruction and Rebuilding
PublicationThe Palace of Established Happiness: Restoring a Garden in the Forbidden City
The Palace Museum is housed in the former palace of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Popularly called The Forbidden City, the museum covers an area of 720,000 square meters. The collections comprise nearly a million art treasures spanning five thousand years of Chinese history with a rich concentration of art and artifacts from the Qing imperial court.
Director, Historical Architecture Conservation Center
Director, Historical Architecture Department
Founder, China Heritage Fund
Project Director, China Heritage Fund
Architect of Record
Project Architect, New York
Project Architect, Beijing