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Architects Urge for Protection of Beijing Hutongs

Style and feature of the "hutongs" and courtyard dwellings should not be changed in the reconstruction of the old city, and "no planning" is the best way to protect old cities, Hua Xinmin, a well-known French expert said in Beijing Thursday.
Hua's father Hua Lanhong was the most famous among China's first generation architects, for his life-long efforts to protect historic architecture. Hua Lanhong married a French woman, and they once lived in an 800-year "hutong" when in Beijing. Hua Xinmin, inheriting her father's spirit, now seized the opportunity of the "Sino-French Architectural Forum" to call for protection of her beloved city Beijing.
To Hua and many of her French compatriots, the old city of Beijing should be best remembered for its "hutongs" and courtyard dwellings. However, many are now in "a very bad condition" and it is estimated that 600 "hutongs" are destroyed each year.
The current reconstruction conducted by the government only focuses on the technology, but not the history and culture, the expert said. She suggested that the government give financial support to the owners of the courtyard dwellings and encourage them to repair their homes.
According to a survey conducted by Hua and her colleagues, if a courtyard dwelling owner get a loan of about 500,000 yuan (about US$60,500 ), and lease 2 or 3 rooms out as "family hostels" he can complete the repair of the courtyard dwelling.
Zhang Yonghe, who will be the Dean of the Architecture Department in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this September, once lived in the same "hutong" as Hua. His father Zhang Kaiji was the first Chinese Architect who introduced French architecture into China.
"The former look of Beijing set a good example to modern architecture, and the city planning nowadays should first learn from it," Zhang said.
French architects Jean- Marie Charpentier and Jerome de Boisseson also introduced the experience in the reconstruction of Paris. A new city was built in La Defense nearby the old city, which not only keep the integrity of the old city, but also offer sufficient life service for the old city.

(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2005)


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