restoration districts (urban)

restoration districts (urban)
In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese ‘work units’ that had jurisdiction over historic neighbourhoods in urban areas were unsure about when, where and how they should either rehabilitate or restore (xiufu) them. Until the mid 1990s, with few policy guidelines coming from above, city administrators were often in a state of stasis. Some opted for inertia, unsure whether (or how) to stem the tide of degradation. Facing intense property development pressures, historic architecture often suffered. This was especially the case with vernacular, less monumentally significant buildings. Other decision-makers, however, began to assert greater initiative by examining alternatives to the demolition of historic neighbourhoods. In some cases (e.g. Shanghai’s Bund in the late 1980s) the restoration of internationally famous districts seems to have been met with general approval and monetary profit. In other cases, such as the restoration of Sunwen Street in Zhongshan (Guangdong), which began in the early 1990s, the decision to upgrade or restore early twentieth-century shophouses (yangfang) was more adventurous and uncertain. Quanzhou (Fujian) is another case where rehabilitation/restoration has been a challenging venture. By the mid 1990s many urban politicians had begun to realize how profitable it could be for their cities to earmark certain districts for restoration, thereby creating tourist attractions, distinctive shopping areas, innovative public places and attractive pedestrian areas.
Therefore, as of 2003 one can find such pockets of restored historic architecture throughout Chinese cities. The rationales vary from cultural, economic and political to a combination of these. Until recently, most residents suffered these changes without possessing any power to influence the decisions that have affected their districts. However, a few recent cases (e.g. certain neighbourhoods in Beijing, Guangzhou and Quanzhou) demonstrate that the exclusively top-down approach to restoration/rehabilitation may be changing.
Abramson, Daniel, Leaf, Michael and Students of Plan 545 (2000). Urban Development and Redevelopment in Quanzhou, China: A Field Study Report. (Asian Urban Research Network, Working Paper 26.) Vancouver: UBC Centre for Human Settlements.
Balderstone, Susan, Qian, Fengqi and Zhang, Bing (2002). ‘Shanghai Reincarnated’. In William S. Logan (ed.), The Disappearing ‘Asian’ City: Protecting Asia’s Urban Heritage in a Globalizing World. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 21–34.
Gaubatz, Piper (1999). ‘China’s Urban Transformation: Patterns and Processes of Morphological Change in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou’. Urban Studies 36:1495–521.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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