From a concept store nestled in an imperial courtyard to al fresco Sichuanese dining, newly appointed director of Beijing Design Week (BDW) Beatrice Leanza offers up a specialist’s guide to her city. A resident for the past decade, Leanza’s intimate knowledge spans its dusty hutongs (alleys), crumbling 600-year-old Dashilar shopping street and the 798 art district, home to expansive galleries and exhibition spaces. Her fascination with Chinese contemporary art began while studying in Italy, and arriving in Beijing in 2002 she worked at the China Art Archives and Warehouse, founded by the renegade Ai Weiwei. “China was coming out of the 1990s, the underground years,” Leanza says. “It was the moment of the institutionalization of the artistic system, the birth of museums and galleries.” She went on to found BAO Atelier, a global think tank. After curating an exhibition of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art collective Xijing Men at 2011’s Venice Biennale and consulting for institutions such as MoMA New York and London’s Royal College of Art, stepping up to the role of director at BDW feels organic. Beijing, Leanza says, is the cultural “heart and soul of the Chinese people. It’s here that most of the prominent artistic movements or practices take shape—it has this all-encompassing nature that no other city in China has.”
Located in a hidden courtyard house once home to the last empress and tucked away in the Mao’er hutong, Wuhao is filled with hand-picked furniture, jewelry, and clothing by Asian and international creators. In the central building an original mirror from the early 20th century and a traditional Kang (day bed) set the scene for seasonal collections inspired by Wu Xing, the five Chinese elements of water, metal, fire, earth and wood.
5 Mao’er Hutong, Dongcheng District
Lost & Found
Setting up shop in the historical hutong area around The Confucian and Lama temples, Lost & Found houses items of a truly local vintage, with Chinese chairs, tables, cabinets, office desks, screens, lights and even clothing that revive an Old World simplicity. It's also a functioning atelier, where craftsmen's studios and workshops can be visited by appointment.
57 Guozijian Street, Dongcheng District
The Temple Hotel
Built during the Ming Dynasty as an imperial printing house for Buddhist sutras, The Temple Hotel later became the residence of one of the most important religious authorities of the Qing Emperors. Located north of the Forbidden City, the newly restored complex and its surrounding pavilions and rooms are complemented by an installation by artist James Turrell and works by design titan Ingo Maurer.
23 Shatan North Street, Dongcheng District
The best Sichuanese restaurant in Beijing sits on a half-hidden corner in the pedestrian area of Sanlitun Village North, an open air mecca for luxury and fashion seekers.
N4-36, Third Floor, The Village North, Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
For those who have longed for an alternative to Sanlitun Village’s congested bar scene, live music lounge and whiskey bar Xian (named after a legendary ‘wine immortal’ whose sculptural portrait guards over the adjacent river) is just few minutes away from 798 Art District.
22 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District
Nestled in the bustling, 600-year-old area of Dashilar on the southern side of Tiananmen Square, this atelier and gallery features limited edition pieces by international contemporary jewelry and ceramics creators, with interiors and display furniture from Local Design Studio featuring Dashila(b). By the time BDW comes around in September, Ubi will be housed in a fully restored tea house dating from the late 19th century.
9 Zhujia Hutong, Dashilar, Xicheng District
One of the earliest concept stores in Beijing, Fei Space sits next to the international galleries of the city's well-trodden Art District. Mostly devoted to fashion, clothing and accessories by local designers, the venue also shows select international creatives alongside rare vintage pieces, as well as containing an exhibition space devoted to young Chinese talent.
Second Floor, B01, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District