Beijing HUTONG Adaptation
The once coherent visual and architectural identity of Beijing’s hutongs has been largely erased, replaced, and at times invaded by a cacophony of architectural interventions; big, small, fixed and instant structures are mixed together.
Today, selected gentrified and historical areas are in close proximity to pockets of tranquility, showing how modernity and tradition coexist within Beijing’s second ring road. How can this set of conditions be considered as an opportunity to forge new design solutions?
A living organism absorbing the demands and influences of its surrounding urban environment, the hutong sustains a uniquely evolving and localized living culture; a place where territorial changes abound, where new professionals move in yet local residents remain, where traditions are continued and revived, reinvented and reinterpreted.
It raises the questions of what, how and why to preserve, demolish and renovate. As such, a new understanding emerges; despite all the destruction, the hutong continues to respond to the demands of twenty-first century Beijing, and, most importantly, new life is ceaselessly generated in these territories.
The hutong presents problems that eschew straightforward solutions, as all of its predicaments are interconnected; housing conditions and property issues, cultural and heritage preservation, commercialization and tourism, governmental initiatives and individualistic approaches, accessibility and environmental degradation, as well as the upgrading of basic public amenities.
Under the keyword HUTONG, MovingCities presents a volatile architectural, urban and cultural condition, concerning the transformation of a local Beijing spatial culture. Let us call this HUTONG/adaptation; so to encompass the multitude of strategies, visions and reflections flourishing in this urban tissue.
Beyond the demand or desire for preservation, ideas and visions of renovation, revitalization, occupation, relocation, legislation, urbanization and gentrification are explored. The content is organized in three complementary sections, identifying locations and actors influencing the perception and planning of these urban areas.
Firstly, by looking back – REWIND – to reflect and remember; secondly, investigating and touching upon the present – NOW – so as to feel a possible future, and finally – DASHILAR – a complex neighborhood case study.
Adaptation is a common thread in the architectural projects presented, in the many interviews conducted with professionals (architects, lawyers, urban planners, decision makers, journalists, writers and creatives), entrepreneurs, and residents, living and working in and with the hutong. They speak about the urgency to debate the role and relevance of architectural and urban preservation in Beijing.
The hutong does not demand utopian visions, but rather common sense and solutions for basic and tangible problems.
words by Bert de Muynck & Mónica Carriço / movingcities.org
文 伯德孟 和 莫妮卡·卡瑞苏 (Bert de Muynck & Mónica Carriço) / movingcities.org
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- see《Abitare住》#34 HUTONG Table of Contents & Colophon
- see《Abitare住》#34 HUTONG Project Page
- see《Abitare住》#34 HUTONG @BJDW 2013
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About ABITARE China
ABITARE seeks for cutting edge design, architecture and art project, all seen from a new perspective. Based on the 50-year-old classic magazine Abitare specializing in culture and architecture, ABITARE China always follows a characteristic, literary writing style, and covers in depth events and stories about architecture, design, culture and people in a lively and interesting way. Abitare China a cross-media communication endorsed by Rizzoli Beijing in 2008, the main goal of which is to promote design culture and bring design to everyday life.
MovingCities is a Shanghai-based think-tank investigating the role of architecture and urbanism in shaping the contemporary city. Established in 2007 by Bert de Muynck [BE] and Mónica Carriço [PT], MovingCities publishes, collaborates talks and walks, and operate as embedded architects. During the past years MovingCities has conducted research, lectures, creative consultancy and workshops in China, Israel, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Indonesia and Italy.
MovingCities wishes to thank the many individuals who contributed their valuable time and expertise through the interviews, texts, photography and projects that form the foundation of this issue. 感谢：MovingCities在此对接受采访、提供文字、图片以及项目案例的诸位表示由衷的感谢，感谢他们对于胡同专辑所付出的宝贵时间及专业建树。