Building Beijing | part III

xTo CBD | August 29, 2009

Haussman is haunting Beijing. While driving around, we traversed the territory by cab. From within it, Beijing reveals another image; there is the unavoidable largeness of space, buildingblocksbigness and omnipresence of green corridors along its ringroads and inner-city highways. A strange symphony of snapshots -like slowing down and speeding up.

Paris’ 19th century change due to the Haussman-plans is a frequently made comparison in the debate on Beijing’s urban development. To oftentimes it is used to camouflage an in-depth reading of the large spatial transformation that the Chinese capital has been undergoing in the past decades. It feels as if many wish there was a Haussman hidden in the urban change machine, sitting their to be blamed for the city’s contemporary construction culture.

In her book “Republican Beijing: The City and Its Histories, 1911-1937” the scholar Madeleine Yue Dong discusses Beijing during an interesting period, as a transitory moment, a present crushed between the weights of an oppressive traditional past and an unalterable modern future. Relating to that period pulls the Haussman-card as following:

In contrast, late-nineteenth-century Paris witnessed spatial transformations on a large scale. Inspired partly out of fear of the populace, Haussman’s plan for building new avenues in Paris sought to break up centers of insurrection by gaining access to the slums where the working class lived. The result, however, was that in peaceful times the avenues that Haussman constructed became public space, and during revolutions the people built barricades with paving stones to block access by government. In contrast, Beijing’s alleyways and courtyards were left alone unless specific construction projects passed through them. Since cars and streetcars did not enter the small hutong, many of these narrow alleys remained intact. As a result, many streets remained narrow and meandering, and many pockets in the city were left untouched.

Today specific, and also non-specific, construction projects have passed through the whole of the city. Hyper-Haussmannerism.

Drive around Xizhimen Subway Station | July 22, 2009

Drive to and fro Wangjingqiao | July 28, 2009

Drive from Gulou Subway Station to CBD | July 29, 2009

Pictures by

Building Beijing | part I | MovingCities
Building Beijing | part II | MovingCities
Building Beijing | part III | MovingCities

2 thoughts on “Building Beijing | part III”

    1. The shots around Xizimen subway station were taken from two different residential towers, the ones nearby Wangjingqiao from the office of 任何建筑 主持 (Ren He Architecture | Any Architecture) and the ones on the CBD from the art/office slab that sits East of the Today Art Museum. In the first and third case we simply entered the buildings and took the elevator to the top floor, in the second case we were invited to visit the office.

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