Beijing 2006 - In with the new (1)

Marjolein Katsma

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Wall Art


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Share this page Photo © 2006 Marjolein Katsma | Text © 2012 Marjolein Katsma

Tags for this photograph:
beijing, china, hutong, urban renewal, brick, coal sheds, greenery, 1940s, hufang road, hu fang lu, beiwei road, bei wei lu

This is part of the second series of Beijing 2006 – The hutong photos; see my journal posts Beijing 2006 – The hutong and Beijing 2006: Out with the old, in with the new for the background of this series.

See the location on a satellite map (Google’s street map doesn’t register with the satellite view!)

During the years just before the 2008 Olympics, when China was furiously demolishing the old, renovating, and building, the news about it that reached the Western press gave the impression that all this clearing up of hutong was something new – quite incorrectly. With – at least after the cultural revolution – urbanization increasing all over China, there was also a constant process of urban renewal and building to make space for the influx of people and create healthier living space than the densely-packed crumbling buildings of the older hutong.

Here’s a small series of images that shows renewal projects in Beijing from different periods, starting with what is probably the oldest I came across.

This is one shot of several I took in a nice area I discovered on my last morning in Beijing. It consists of small brick buildings grouped around green courtyards, with only a few tree-lined roads through it, giving the whole a quite pleasant atmosphere. Note the row of coal sheds – just like the ones found in most old hutong areas; with buildings a few stories high they cannot be attached to individual houses, so here there are rows of them along a green courtyard (like here) or along the street.

Although I noted some quite mature trees (some higher than the 3-4 story buildings) which made me think this was much older, my source tells me these buildings are from the 1970s or 80s. Remember my shots of protecting the trees? I’ve found out by now that in a lot of urban renewal projects old trees were carefully preserved in the layout: surrounding trees are not a good way to date buildings by! The use of brick isn’t either – some of the projects in the early 1990s used brick as well – precisely as one of the ways to preserve some of the feel of the old hutong.

Some more info on the satellite image!

Camera: Fuji Finepix F30

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