Back in 2008, I had a paper published in the journal, Environment and Urbanization. It discusses the effectiveness of public rental housing provision as compensation measures for tenants in substandard neighbourhoods which become subject to wholesale demolition and redevelopment. I argue in the paper that while the provision of public rental housing provision is a step forward for addressing housing problems of the urban poor, it cannot be all-encompassing solution, and that compensation needs to take into account the diverse socio-economic circumstances (including tenure preferences) of the urban poor.
Not too long after its publication, I had a chance to come across with a colleague who at the time was based in China, working on a number of urbanisation-related research projects. He thought the paper was useful for Chinese audience too and kindly arranged its translation into Chinese to be subsequently posted on a Chinese web site on urban governance. I post the Chinese version of the paper in this post. I express sincere thanks to the colleague who at the time was based in China. (My understanding was that he preferred to remain anonymous at the time, and I will contact him if he’s happy to be named here)
On a separate note, I notice that the Chinese web site has gone through some changes during the last few years. I still find the Chinese version of my paper on the web site (click here to view), but it does not mention my name as the author of the original paper. As there is no contact detail on the web site, I am not sure how to go about asking for corrections. Any tips and help in this matter would be much appreciated. Continue reading →
This is the fifth monthly contribution to the Korean daily newspaper, The KyungHyang Shinmun. I have chosen by Qin Shao, Professor of History at The College of New Jersey. There is an excerpt of the book in English, which can be viewed on the Asia Society web site on this link.
The book discusses the life and struggle of Shanghai’s displacees whose life courses have abruptly changed by the city-wide redevelopment projects. Facing the almighty power of the state, developers, media and so on, displacees are transformed from ordinary residents to an occupational petitioners, a barrack-room lawyer or a community leader. The rights discourse spelled out by these people also provides a fascinating insight for our understanding on how the interaction between reform measures (economic, political and legal) and people’s response to these have reshaped their rights awareness and views on social justice.
The contents of this book resonate with my own research on residents’ displacement and redevelopment in Seoul (Nangok neighbourhood, 난곡) in South Korea (see my papers from Geoforum and Environment and Urbanization) as well as in Beijing and Guangzhou in China (in particular, my papers from Antipode and Urban Studies).
My last trip to Tokyo was in late December 2010, about three months before the earthquake and the leakage of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plants. I haven’t been able to return since then, and if I do, it would be interesting to compare the atmosphere of the city with what I felt during my last trip, though it is probable that I may not notice any major difference. Even if there are changes, I would expect such things in Japan would tend to be more subtle, not distinctive enough for occasional visitors like myself to notice.
In any case, at that time, I spent about four nights in Tokyo, meeting up with friends that I had missed for long. I also aimed to spend the day time to explore the city as much as possible, taking pictures of various places. Whenever I visit a new city, one of the first things that I do is to look for a tall building, if not the tallest, which may have an observation area that presents a bird’s eye view of the whole city. In Tokyo, my recommendations would go to two places. One of them is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building complex, which has twin towers that offer a free access to top-floor lounge areas.
The other place, which I pay particular attention to in this posting, is the Roppongi Hills. It accommodates Mori Tower (see figure on the left), which provides an observation deck known as Tokyo City View on the 52nd floor. Mori Tower also has an outdoor roof deck on the 54th floor, which is sometimes closed at the time of severe weather conditions. According to various sources, the Roppongi district used to be home to many entertainment venues including night clubs for many years before it experienced a downturn at the time of Japan’s bubble burst in the early 1990s. After having been a rugged, rough place for years, the district has gone through a marked transformation (Roman Cybriwsky’s Roppongi Crossing seems like a good guide to the understanding of these changes). Major mix-use developments such as the Roppongi Hills (where Mori Tower occupies the centre stage) and the Tokyo Midtown have come to provide upscale residential flats and commercial and recreational facilities, catering for the needs of the affluent and tourists.
In particular, the Roppongi Hills development was spearheaded by Minoru Mori, a real estate tycoon who was ranked the 683rd richest person in the Forbe’s The World’s Billionnaires list (as of March 2012). Unfortunately, Minoru Mori passed away at the age of 77 in March 2012. His younger brother Akira Mori is another real estate tycoon, ranked 6th richest person in Japan and the 314th in the world according to the Forbes. Both brothers inherited the wealth from their father, Taikichiro Mori, who happened to be the world’s richest at the beginning of the 1990s.
The Roppongi Hills development happened to be one of the largest private-led urban redevelopment projects. The building complex stood on a 11-hectare site, which used to be owned by about 500 individual landowners. The compiled images from Google Earth attached below show the landscape of the site before and after the project (the while line indicates an approximate boundary of the site). The redevelopment plan started with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s designation of the site as ‘redevelopment inducement area’ in November 1986, and it took more than 14 years before the Ownership Transfer Plan was approved, signalling the conclusion of ownership-related negotiations (or disputes?) with individual landowners. The majority of these owners were said to have received a piece of properties, either office or a flat in the complex, in return for their land ownership rights. As the dates above show, it was under the reign of Taikichiro Mori when the redevelopment plan was initiated. It seemed that Taikichiro Mori was very tactful (=controversial?) with his acquisition of the site. Buying small parcels discreetly and moving in his own employees to become active community members was the strategy he used (see his obituary in The New York Times). Upon the death of Taikichiro Mori in January 1993, the redevelopment project continued under the leadership of Minoru Mori. The construction work commenced in April 2000, and it required full three years to complete the construction, resulting in a mix-use building complex with a total floor space of about 760000 square metres (see the company site for more details on the development history)
Minoru Mori was well-known for his promotion of ‘vertical garden cities’, advocating the vertical assemblage of various urban functions instead of horizontal expansion, resonating Le Corbusier’s The Radiant City. Googling also reveals another British-born architect Chris Abel as having preached the same expression, but it is not clear if the two interacted with each other, sharing the views. In any case, the web site of Mori Building Co., Ltd has a concise explanation (pasted below) of what they consider as the guiding principle of constructing a ‘vertical garden city’:
“By assembling land that has been subdivided into small parcels into a large block and then consolidating building needs in high-rise structures while exploiting man-made foundations and underground space, this approach can free a vast amount of open space at the ground level.
Through ‘vertical’ land development that makes intelligent use of ultrahigh-rise structures as well as underground space, we can create a ‘compact city’ that enhances the efficiency of urban infrastructure, such as rail transportation and road systems, while systematically integrating diverse urban functions, including work, residence/living, entertainment, education, and commercial/retail.”
Model of Roppongi Hills
The Roppongi Hills marked the revival of certain parts of Tokyo’s downtown areas, signalling the new phase of the city’s investments in real estate after the dramatic fall of the industry at the time of the 1990s bubble burst. It is nevertheless questionable if the same principle could have applied to building a similar complex with diverse functions but accommodating not as wealthy clients as the Roppongi Hills have come to possess. No matter how the site is packaged as providing art, culture and entertainment with a rich array of shopping facilities and office functions, it nonetheless presents an aura of an ‘gated residential enclave’ for the Japan’s rich and professional expats, if not the richest (Goldman Sachs is one of the major business occupants in Mori Tower), and of a highly commodified, luxurious space for the middle- and upper-class consumers.
I only had enough time to wander around the indoor Tokyo City View to take some pictures of Tokyo downtown in one late afternoon. While Tokyo is a dense (both population- and building-wise) metropolitan place, some districts do stand out with a concentration of skyscrapers as seen in the first picture below, which shows Shibuya and Shinjuku districts viewed from Mori Tower. The views from the Tokyo City View are quite stunning, including the view of Mountain Fuji in the distance. If my memory is correct, the access to the Tokyo City View requires one to pay for admissions to the Mori Art Museum. It is definitely worth a visit if you would like to grasp the urban scale of Tokyo.
View from Mori Tower towards Shibuya and Shinjuku Districts
View of Tokyo downtown and Mountain Fuji in the distant
Urbanised villages in China refer to former rural villages that have been engulfed by urban expansion. Having lost farmlands, villagers invest heavily in dwellings to gain rental income from migrant tenants. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in China’s Pearl River Delta region. These villages struggle to resist impending threats of demolition, though they give in eventually one after another, as is the case seen in this picture.
(originally submitted to LSE Photo Prize 2012 competition and shortlisted)
Last month in December 2011, I paid another research trip to Hong Kong. Due to my short stay, I was not able to visit many places nor meet friends as much as I hoped for. One place that I happened to pass by was Chungking Mansions, which is one of the unique landmarks in Hong Kong. First opened in 1961 as a trendy living place for the relatively affluent at the time, it is located on Nathan Road, Kowloon, not too far from the waterfront. The following note was actually prepared when I paid an earlier visit back in May 2011, accompanied by a colleague of mine Surajit who now teaches in Abu Dhabi University. (Hence, my thanks to him for the informative discussion at the time)
Its first two storeys are used as malls accommodating various stores (currently dominated by south asian restaurants, electronics/gadget shops and DVDs), and other upper floors are residential. The building complex has five towers, and I hear each tower has 18 floors: other than the ground floor, lifts take people up to the 16th floor, and there is yet another 17th floor which is not reached by the lift system. The rooftop has connection to other towers so that people in the tower’s middle section can be evacuated more easily in case of fire. Continue reading →
When I was told to come to the Hopewell Centre for a meeting this afternoon, it did not ring a bell to me that this was the tower that housed the famous revolving bar/restaurant on the 62nd floor. The name sounded familiar from the moment I read it, but I suppose I must have completely forgotten about it until today. So, it took me nearly half an hour of wandering around Wanchai before finally identifying the 64-storey tower, which used to be the tallest tower in Hong Kong during the 1980s.
Hopewell Centre’s name comes from the Hopewell Holdings Limited, a HK-listed property company, and the top floors of the Centre accommodate headquarters of this company. The CEO of the Hopewell Holdings, Sir Gordon Wu, is ranked the 38th richest person in Hong Kong earlier this year, according to the Forbes report on Hong Kong’s Richest. The tower’s revolving restaurant is a must-visit place for those who would like to have a bird’s eye view of Hong Kong while enjoying a drink. It seems to have taken about one hour to make one full circle today. A pint of beer, Heineken, cost about 60 Hong Kong dollars, which was actually not too bad, given what I could take away as a memory in return. Sadly, my camera battery ran out early on, and these two pictures were what I could shoot. Another excuse to come back when I make my next visit to Hong Kong…
As mentioned earlier, the Hopewell Centre used to be the tallest building in Hong Kong until the late 1980s. I remember coming to this tower with my parents and to the revolving restaurant (less often than going to the Victoria Peak though). I cannot clearly remember now, but I suppose the view from the restaurant must have been magnificent, as the tower looked down upon every building around it at the time.
On the other hand, the view from the ground level is very different. Thanks to my earlier confusion that led me to wander around Wanchai for nearly half an hour, I was able to have a closer view of latest redevelopment projects in this part of Wanchai. Several pockets of Wanchai’s old district are now demolished, and construction workers are laying the foundation for reconstruction. While the bird’s eye view from the top of the Hopewell Centre projects Hong Kong’s more global image, the Wanchai district within which the Hopewell Centre is located provides a rich life of Hong Kong’s ordinary residents. The district is home to not only many night clubs and bars, but also to street markets, vendors and specialized small firms, which are frequented by local Hong Kong residents. Visitors to Hong Kong tend to associate Hong Kong with luxury goods and duty-free shops, but what lie behind buildings, hidden from the view from main streets, are what truly enrich the time and space of Hong Kong.
These endogenous characteristics seem to face a great pressure of extinction due to a series of redevelopment proposed and implemented in this district. During my one-hour walk today, it was easy to find many sites of demolition and redevelopment. Interestingly, they were mostly bearing the name of the Hopewell Holdings Limited, strongly suggesting that the property firm is behind these projects. I haven’t yet had a chance to find out the extent of the company’s involvement in these projects or their ownership/finance structure. The scale of intrusion of these projects into people’s life, however, is simply amazing and difficult to describe. Perhaps the on-going process here typifies what an urban renewal project means to local people in contemporary Hong Kong. It is difficult to argue against any kind of demolition and reconstruction when one observes the status of severe dilapidation of some of the old, poorly maintained buildings. However, when projects are largely promoted and designed by developers to meet the taste of the rich who have a very different notion of urban life, they become a serious threat to people who pursue their daily life under current use of space, which may not be the highest and best use of land from the perspective of developers. Hong Kong seen from above at the top of the Hopewell Centre is certainly different from that experienced on the ground.
(The bottom left picture above shows the round-shaped Hopewell Centre in the background)
The heritage conservation area surrounding Beijing’s Drum and Bell Tower is another place that I try to make a repeated visit whenever I am in Beijing. The first time I was here was back in 2002 when Shishahai was at its very early stage of becoming an entertainment zone. It was still tranquil back then. In the summer of 2004, when I was back in Beijing to organise a workshop, I was told that some academics and heritage conservationists including journalists were busy with writing a petition letter to stop the imminent demolition along Jiu Gulou Dajie as part of its expansion. Since then, I remember coming across with occasional news reports about whether or not this area with a high concentration of dilapidated courtyard houses would be subject to demolition and redevelopment.
Earlier this year, I received an announcement from the Beijing Cultural Heritage Conservation Center that it was to host a forum ‘Saving Gulou‘ on the planned demolition of this neighbourhood. It was cancelled eventually due to government intervention. The Center’s web site states:
“Despite Gulou’s cultural importance, multiple sources have indicated that a 5 billion RMB budget has been allocated to convert 12.5 hectares of the Drum and Bell Tower area into a ‘Beijing Time Cultural City’ – putting the neighbourhood in serious danger. Such a massive scale development will include large infrastructures like public squares and a museum. As a result, there will be extensive evictions, demolition, and construction in this ancient area, and gone will be the traditional courtyards, hutongs, and local residents.”
Until today, it seems that the district government has kept quiet not to reveal the actual detailed plans regarding the neighbourhood redevelopment, which makes the future very uncertain for every party involved including local residents. While the immediate surrounding area north of Drum and Bell Tower remains intact, the southern parts of Drum Tower East Street and Drum Tower West Street show a visible trace of demolition already taking place. Zhongtao Hutong, closer to the northern section of the 2nd ring road, is also going through demolition.
Demolition: South of Drum Tower West Street
Demolition: South of Drum Tower East Street
Since the early 2000s, Beijing has been experimenting with various conservation strategies. So far, it seems like there are two distinctive models: Nanluoguxiang (or perhaps Shishahai) model and Qianmen model. The former involves gradual upgrading of facilities and dwellings as well as selective demolition and reconstruction. Courtyards in relatively good conditions get traded as they nowadays attract high-end investors (mainly overseas Chinese so far). The Qianmen model involves a complete make-over (some refer to it as ‘fake-over’) of an entire area by means of demolition and reconstruction, though a number of people would disapprove what has become of Qianmen nowadays. A senior editor at China Daily told me that the district government wanted to re-create the kind of architecture and streetscape from the 1930s and 1940s when Qianmen was at its heyday commercially, and hence took the building prints from those days to rebuild all the new buildings. Obviously, the array of these buildings create a strange atmosphere as if you are in a film shooting scene. The same senior editor mentioned earlier was correct to point out that there was no longer the kind of interaction between these shops on ‘new’ Qianmen and local Beijing residents, which used to create the unique and vibrant environment in the old days. Most shops that now exist along Qianmen Street are hardly affordable by ordinary Beijingers, and those with buying power are unlikely to come to this street to do shopping due to the touristic environment. After all, for the newly rich in Beijing, there are far more attractive places than Qianmen to do shopping. On the other hand, many tourists would find it expensive to shop here. It would be interesting how the shops survive here.
Qianmen: View South
Going back to the potential redevelopment of Drum and Bell Tower areas, it would be very important for the government (especially the district government in this case) to realise the importance of the interaction in order to keep the soul of this place. Otherwise, it will create another ‘ghost’ town.
Every time I come to Beijing, I try to make a repeated visit to some selected places in order to see what’s been changed. In a way, it is a semi-academic exercise, almost a ritual, in order for me to grasp the speed of Beijing’s socio-spatial changes. After all, Beijing is a city that condenses its development trajectory many folds.
One such place is called Xinzhongjie, located near Worker’s Stadium in Dongcheng District. This is an area that I studied several years ago. If any reader is interested, some of the findings can be found in my article, Residential Redevelopment and Entrepreneurial Local State. Part of this neighbourhood was redeveloped several years ago, now accommodating Yangguang Dushi (or Sun City), a high-rise commercial housing estate. Upon completion of the first phase redevelopment, there were rumors that the remaining part of this neighbourhood would experience redevelopment fairly soon, but somehow, the work has not taken place until recently. When I came to see this area last year March, the area stayed exactly the same as what I had seen back in 2003.
The neighbourhood now depicts a marked difference. It is quite visible and evident that demolition is now taking place, and the low-rise buildings that used to accommodate small businesses appear to have become the first target. It is very probable that the local authority took years to sort out the fragmented property rights of these small businesses, which may involve numerous rounds of negotiations with various work-units and business owners regarding compensation measures. It seems like these negotiations have now reached conclusion. Most residential dwellings remain intact as of now, but I would expect that they would be subject to demolition quite soon. One last remaining pingfang (one-storey dwelling) neighbourhood in this part of Beijing will soon disappear. It would be interesting to find out what becomes of this neighbourhood and the fate of the original residents.
Beijing has changed again. This time in Beijing, the new development on Sanlitun North Street (known as ‘Sanlitun Bar Street’) came to me as a surprise. Sanlitun Village is something completely new to me, and it is apparently very bustling, full of luxury shops, bars, restaurants and cafe that aim at the new ‘middle-class’ in Beijing. Beijing’s Apple Store is also based here. The whole complex is quite visible from distance, and it has an inner courtyard space with fountain areas as well as roof-top terrace that accommodates fancy bars. It certainly is a new type of development that Beijing has not seen before, and I am wondering who is behind this development. Perhaps another Hong Kong-originated capital?
Right next to the complex situates another new development site of Sanlitun SOHO, and the name makes it clear who the developer is (correct me if I’m wrong). It is another huge complex of seemingly mix-use, and does stand out in this whole area. I am not quite sure but in my memory, the area used to be a low-rise hutong-like area, which accommodated some small bars (less fancy but cozier than those bars on the main Sanlitun Bar Street), but it seems to have been all demolished fairly recently.
Obviously, this part of Beijing is a prime site, and it is not so surprising that this area is going through this type of development. Perhaps it has come too late from the government and developers’ perspective. What is interesting is that these new development projects are making the previous development obsolete in style. Those residential and commercial buildings built in the 1980s and 1990s (or even in the early 2000s) appear to be outdated when they are juxtaposed with the new development. We will see what new development is going to be triggered in the near future.
이전에 참여정부에서 근무하시다 지금은 세종대학교에서 재직하고 계시는 김수현교수께서 경원대 정석 교수와 함께 작성하신 ‘격문’ 입니다. 무한 펌을 권장하시니 주변 분들에게도 전달하시어 널리 읽혔으면 하는 마음에 전달해 드립니다. 문서 바로 보기 – 여기를 클릭하세요
제 연구 분야 역시 도시재생, 재개발의 정치학, 저소득층 주민 삶 등이 포함되어 있는데요, 현재 동아시아 각국에서 진행되는 재개발 정책은 한결같이 부동산 자본의 이윤 극대화, 이의 정부 보장 (또는 주도)가 밑바탕에 깔려 있는 듯 합니다. Capital 또는 Expertise 와 같은 자원이 빈약하여 정책 영향력이 미미한 도시 서민은 이러한 개발 과정에서 소외되는 모습을 동아시아 여러 도시에서 공통적으로 발견합니다…