Global architecture firm Büro Ole Scheeren has completed the Guardian Art Center, the world’s first custom-built auction house in Beijing. The building is a mixed-use development that houses a hotel, galleries, restaurants, and events spaces. “The Guardian Art Center is a lot more than just a museum,” said Ole Scheeren in a statement. “It’s not a hermetic institution, but rather an acknowledgment of the hybrid state of contemporary culture.”

Built near the Forbidden City and the National Art Museum of China, the building is a modern-day counterpoint to the surrounding traditional Chinese architecture. Still, the center pays tribute to China’s rich architectural past. The structure’s lower portion is made up of nested stone volumes, a nod to the classic courtyard houses found throughout Beijing. The façade is perforated with a pattern of circular openings, which, when seen from afar, creates the illusion of a mountain that was inspired by a Chinese landscape painting by 14th-century artist Huang Gongwang. The firm wanted to make sure the building reflected a “Chinese identity,” said Scheeren, whose notable projects include the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, while a partner at OMA.

A massive ring, made of glass panels laid out in a brick pattern, sits atop the stone volumes. The contrast in size and material is intentional. While the building’s bottom half pays homage to Beijing’s ancient history, the top portion reflects the city’s status as an important metropolis. “The building’s architecture embeds multiple layers of abstracted cultural and historic notions and captures the complex emotional spectrum of Beijing with a very understated sense of monumentality,” Scheeren explained.   

Inside the building is a 18,300-square-foot exhibition space that can be configured for various purposes. The upper levels just below the glass ring accommodate the center’s restaurants and administrative offices, while the ring itself houses the hotel. A small tower at the center of the ring contains educational facilities. Altogether, the center is a carefully created public space that highlights past and present-day Beijing.