Forbidden no Longer

Selldorf Architects to design an Interpretation Center in China's Forbidden City

The exterior of the Interpretation Center before restoration (Courtesy the World Monuments Fund)

The World Monuments Fund, the New York–based nonprofit dedicated to preserving historically-significant monuments all over the world, announced that Selldorf Architects will design a new visitor’s center in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

The “Interpretation Center” will be housed in an existing building in the Forbidden City’s Qianlong Garden, which has been idle since China’s last emperor, Pu Yi, left the palace in 1924. While the original palace complex was completed in 1420 and includes 980 buildings, Qianlong Garden is a semi-recent addition that was added sometime between 1771 and 1776.

Photo of a circular viewing portal made of bamboo

The moon gate in Juanqinzhai, a Qianlong Garden pavilion that was restored in 2008. (Courtesy the World Monuments Fund)

The two-acre garden has never been open to the public and has remained unrestored. Under Selldorf’s plan, an existing structure in the garden’s second courtyard will be converted into a tripartite visitor’s center that will educate guests on the history of the Forbidden City.

The Interpretation Center will be composed of three halls around an open-air pavilion. The west hall will focus on the design and creation of the surrounding garden, which holds 27 buildings; the main hall will be open and present unobstructed views of the cascading rock gardens in the third courtyard, and the east hall will present materials on the Qianlong Garden’s restoration.

“Projects like the new Interpretation Center at the Qianlong Garden, that bring people together in a spirit of inquiry and inclusiveness, are at the core of our practice,” said Selldorf Architects founder and principle Annabelle Selldorf. “It has been a great pleasure and honor to work with World Monuments Fund to create an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the Gardens and experience their beauty and wonder first-hand.”

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