Beijing Xinzhongjie neighbourhood – Demolition begins

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.

Xinzhongjie, Beijing

박사논문을 준비하면서 방문했던 베이징내 마을이 Xinzhongjie 였다. Worker’s Stadium 인근에 위치한 이곳은 1950년대에 (구)소련 원조로 지어진 5층 아파트와 단층 주택 pingfang 등이 hutong을 따라 촘촘히 들어서 있다. 주거환경이 많이 낙후된 이 곳 역시 곧 있으면 철거될 것이라는 것이 2003년도 얘기였었다. 매번 방문할 때마다 이 곳을 꼭 한번씩 둘러보는데, 어찌된 영문인지 2004년 여름에도, 2007년 봄에도, 그리고 2008년 이번 여름에도 그대로 남아 있다. 이번 여름에는 올림픽 행사 등으로 인해 일찌감치 철거된 곳을 제외하곤 철거가 미루어 진 곳이 제법 있다 하던데, 이곳도 그런 것인지 아니면 다른 이유가 있는 것인지 좀 더 찾아보고픈 생각이 든다.

아래 사진은 Xinzhongjie의 어느 골목길. 녹색 철문은 예전에 없었던 듯 한데… 기억이 가물가물…

Xinzhongjie를 위에서 바라다본 모습. 인근 아파트 발코니에서 찍었다. 오래된 나무들이 많아 녹색의 풍경이 주변 아파트 숲과 대비를 이룬다. 베이징의 전통적인 hutong의 모습은 siheyuan 四合院과 이를 보듬는 울창한 나무들로 이루어졌다 한다. 그래서 여름엔 건조하고 무더운 베이징에서 siheyuan은 나무 그늘로 인해 더위를 피할 수 있는, 자연친화적인 주거환경이었다 한다. 아래 사진에서 조금이나마 그것이 어떤 풍경이었을지를 짐작해 본다.

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