Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang, known for his gunpowder art, flaming sky ladder and 99 sculptural animals, has had his New York studio renovated and expanded by OMA. The result is a subterranean library and tea room and enlarging a courtyard at the heart of the space. Cai Gu0-Qiang’s studio, called Cai Studio, is located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighbourhood in a brick building, that was constructed in 1885 and originally served as a schoolhouse.

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Born in Quanzhou, but based in New York since 1995, Cai works across various media and is particularly well known for his performance pieces created with explosives. Encompassing 8,675 square feet (805 square metres), the project entailed expanding the studio into an adjacent storefront space and basement level, and updating existing areas.

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OMA preserved a number of historic elements, including stone walls, brick archways, an iron stair railing, and the original red school door, which serves as the studio’s main entrance. The ground level contains an entry hall, reception area, two galleries and an open-plan office. The galleries feature museum-quality lighting and can accommodate large-scale artworks.

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The tea room is defined by traditional mats, pebble flooring, and a large overhead panel made of bamboo reed. The tea room faces a small patio, where bamboo trees extend upward through grates that were installed in the courtyard above.

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