U Opinion | Architects' Tea House: Revival and Renovation of Old Urban Areas
This article originally appeared in “Architects’ Tea House” Official Account
Founder of Urbantect Architecture and Planning Design
Partner of Beijing Wending Zhucheng Design Consulting Co., Ltd.
Partner of MAT Office
Deputy Architect of Do Architecture Art Interior Museum Fun
Associate Architect of Beijing Institute of Architectural Design
Design Director of 9th Design Institute
Associate Architect of China Architecture Group ad Dean of 3rd Architecture Group
Ming Hui Studio Host
Origin of topic
New planning and renovation are frequently talked about when mentioning the renovation of old urban areas. Some of them are successful, such as the New World of Shanghai, and some unsuccessful, like Qianmen Street of Beijing. The Shanghai-based New World has been popular since the renovation was finished. On the contrary, Qianmen Dashilar has been not so popular and many local people are reluctant to go there. It’s definitely bad that some buildings are bad and unpopular. However, previous business is prosperous while buildings are old or relevant planning is out of date merely. What shall we do? Which one is more important, architecture or life? Or so-called culture?
Since revival was mentioned, it means that the area was prosperous and was declined, and it takes its course to revive it. When does any urban area need revival? In my opinion, it needs revival when the forms and contents of the urban area are “separate”. At this moment, it needs revival or renovation. In summary, it must be changed in terms of forms or contents, and its vital and valuable parts shall remain.
For instance, the life inside the urban area is good and vibrant, but the forms are backward. As a result, vital life shall be maintained. You cannot demolish it for reconstruction after knowing that local people have a comfortable life here. Another situation is that it is necessary to remain original urban forms but life there has been losing vitality, which is quite common. We usually make new planning for internal types of operation and protect external forms, such as the New World of Shanghai. Some people may feel that many things have changed. However, it is not required to feel perplexed. Valuable things can be retained and valueless ones can be transformed. In my opinion, such changes function as a normal state for cities.
Sometimes it is contradictory to retain valuable culture and update industries during the revival of old urban areas. This is not common in China. For example, the development of surrounding areas is usually affected if one small building listed as a site for heritage protection. It’s worthwhile to sacrifice the value of some lands to keep historical heritage if it is required to keep the value of certain buildings. The current issue is that we make economic development as our core task, and the desire for industrial development is much larger than that for the revival of old urban areas.