The original Beijing City Hotel was part of the first hotel boom that occurred after the 1978 Reform and Opening of China. Built in 1990 and located in the prominent Sanlitun area, the hotel architecture had all the characters of rapid urbanization: a simple exterior form, lack of detail, and no regard for urban context. After over two decades of use, the hotel could no longer meet the requirements of a contemporary hotel located in a city center, not only in practical terms, but also in terms of urban life.
The whole renovation design was based on the principle of keeping as much of the original building structure as possible. Since the original structure could not bear a heavy load, the architect chose glass-reinforced concrete (GRC) as the main façade material. The resulting new “zig-zag” building envelope reflects the triangular footprint of the hotel tower and reinforces the identity of the building. Façade elements in light-grey GRC alternate with glass panels, resembling a Chinese folding fan, and creating a plastic outer skin with a vivid light-and-shadow juxtaposition. The geometric arrangement and the story-high glazing open the formerly introverted building to the surrounding area, ensuring all the hotel rooms have better views and spatial qualities than before. A colonnade on the west and south sides of the building, consisting of 10-meter-high GRC elements, guides hotel guests intuitively from the noisy main road to the formerly recessed and hidden hotel entrance.