Beijing's Historic Neighborhoods Are Under Attack

The demolition of buildings by famed 20th century architects portends a wider trend in Beijing's historic neighborhoods.

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Flickr/Dongcheng

China is home to some of the most innovative and bombastic architecture of our time, but its hyper gentrification has come at a significant cost. A few days ago, preservationists and proponents of historical Chinese architecture suffered a tremendous loss, when an unassuming hutong in Beijing’s old Dongcheng district was demolished.

Now reduced to rubble, No. 24 courtyard of Bei Zong Bu Hutong was once home to architect duo Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin from 1931 to 1937, and its roof watched over the famous couple as they researched and produced one of the most prolific tomes of Eastern architecture: Chinese Architectural History.

Liang and Lin are credited for discovering the Zhaozhou Bridge, a stone bridge that dates back 1,400 years, among other significant Chinese architectural relics, and their built work is far from negligible, including work on the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square. Their pioneering research forecasted the current state of Chinese urbanization: Liang and Lin famously made pleas to the Chinese military to prevent the destruction of numerous cultural landmarks in China. Little did they know that their own home would be subsumed by China’s high-speed urban development.

The demolition, however, did not go unnoticed. The news sparked public outcry, especially when preservationists revealed the demolition was never officially authorized. The razing of the hutong brings attention to the alarming rate at which China’s low-rise hutongs are disappearing, and it has inspired many to petition for a monument to be built in the place of historic Bei Zong Bu.

Flickr/souravdas

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

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