Beijing, China

The Garden of the Palace of Established Happiness (Jian Fu Palace Garden) was built by the Emperor Qianlong in 1740 and is composed of a series of pavilions set in garden courts in the northwest corner of the Forbidden City. Destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1923, the site was left vacant for close to 80 years. The complex has now been painstakingly reconstructed by the China Heritage Fund, in collaboration with the Palace Museum. Master craftsmen, carpenters, masons, tile workers and painters are working together using traditional tools, techniques and processes. The aim is to revive traditional building crafts as well as the training of artisans, as a means of conserving China’s rich cultural past.

Pei Partnership Architects, together with Tsao & McKown Architects, are now transforming the reconstructed interiors of the complex into a series of exhibition, reception and meeting spaces for special visitors to the Forbidden City and the Palace Museum. State-of-the-art mechanical and electrical systems will be inserted into the traditional pavilions in a discreet and respectful manner, while ensuring that their provision will not jeopardize the delicate wooden structures. The interiors of the pavilions will be left exposed as much as possible so as to illustrate the sophistication and intricacy of traditional Chinese imperial architectural techniques. At the same time, there will be a richness and sumptuousness in textures and furnishings, employing both antiques from the Palace Museum Archives and reinterpreted furniture and accessories, to satisfy the requirements of the pavilions’ new uses.

The project was completed in the autumn of 2005, in time for the 80th anniversary of the Forbidden City Palace Museum.