Heritage group sets out to save ’50s Beijng architecture
Civil Society | Environment
As Beijing’s city planners continue to re-model the capital ahead of the 2008 Olympics, a cultural heritage protection NGO has set out to preserve not just the city’s traditional courtyards and hutongs but also the work of architect, Xu Zhong who designed two Ministry of Commerce buildings completed in 1954 and now slated for demolition.
“Xu Zhong’s beautiful buildings are threatened with demolition not to be replace by some developer’s real estate project but simply to make space in front of the Ministry of Commerce’s skyscraper immediately to its rear,” according to a Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre (CHP) electronic newsletter, the first edition of which was distributed on August 30. “To tear down two such exquisite buildings in order to have a clearer view of yet another bland glass and steel skyscraper, indistinguishable from any other skyscraper, does not make sense,” the newsletter continues, calling on the Ministry of Commerce and planning authorities “to reconsider this most unfortunate plan.”
CHP’s Managing Director, Hu Xinyu, told China Development Brief that the Ministry of Commerce contacted the group after CHP had warned of the demolition threat on its website (www.bjchp.org). “We are now in dialogue with them” said Hu. “It’s an excellent sign that they contacted us. There may be a chance to save the building, but I don’t know how big a chance.”
Hu, a Beijing native, joined CHP in July of this year, and hopes to scale up the organisation’s visibility and impact.
The electronic newsletter, which has both English and Chinese versions, is one innovation he has introduced. “At the moment we are just distributing about 500 copies to friends,” he says, “But we are hoping it will spread quickly.” Readers can sign up via the CHP website.
CHP, says Hu, is also planning to offer cultural heritage trainings to “high impact groups” such as Chinese journalists, since “Many of them don’t know much about Chinese conservation laws and regulations.”
The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre was originally established in 1998 by He Shuzhong, an official in the policy department of the National Administration of Cultural Heritage. It is now registered with Beijing Bureau of Civil Affairs.
Report by Nick Young, August 30, 2006