Beijing in One Building

Other architects have tried and failed. For 18 years, the site at the corner of Wangfujing and Wusi streets has seen 30 proposals come and go, each bedevilled by the height restrictions and commercial pressures that come from being one of the last major building sites in close proximity to Beijing’s Forbidden City. Now, finally, […]

Posted in: Architecture, Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Interior Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Beijing in One Building , , , ,

New Life in Old Beijing, Part III

This is the final installment in a three-part series on preservation and urban transformation in Beijing’s hutongs. Half a kilometre from Tiananmen Square, an unexpected aroma wafts through the Beijing hutongs: fresh-roasted coffee. The source of that smell is just as surprising. Housed in a two-storey structure that was at various times a government-run printing […]

New Life in Old Beijing, Part II

When I arrived in Beijing on the third day of the Chinese New Year, I was expecting the city to be quiet, and it was, except on Nanluoguxiang, a long alleyway near the Drum and Bell Towers that is lined by small shops, cafés and restaurants. Nanluoguxiang was busy — swarming with people, in fact. […]

New Life in Old Beijing, Part I

Great Leap Brewery in Doujiao Hutong It’s the third day of the Chinese New Year and Beijing is taking a break. Traffic has unjammed itself, department stores are shuttered and bursts of fireworks cut through the cold, dry air. As my taxi passes over the Second Ring Road, the streets are quiet until the Gulou […]

Good Morning, Hutong

Beijing is not a good walking city. Its roads are too wide, its blocks too long — this is a city meant to be experienced on wheels, whether those of a bicycle or (increasingly) a compact sedan. But as Christopher Szabla reminded us earlier this year, “Beijing is at least two cities”: the city beyond […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Good Morning, Hutong , , , ,

Beyond the Second Ring Road

Beijing is at least two cities. There’s the Beijing of the hutongs, a largely low-slung, grayscaled cityscape lying along the occasionally meandering little streets one can find within the old city walls, a one to two kilometer radius of Tiananmen Square. Then there’s the rest of Beijing, a march of high and midrise office and […]

The Gutting of Gulou

Cranes, viewed from the 13th century Gulou, or Drum Tower, build the new Beijing The view from Beijing’s Gulou, or Drum Tower, is dominated by the labyrinth of threadlike lanes — the city’s famous hutongs — spreading in all directions, filling in the superblocks formed by the city’s broad, rectilinear avenues. Gulou, built in the […]

Chilly Day Around Houhai

Houhai is one of three lakes (the others are Qianhai and Xihai) in central Beijing. It dates back to the twelfth century, after which it became the northernmost part of the Grand Canal, linking the northern capital with Hangzhou in the south. Houhai today is surrounded by one of Beijing’s largest remaining collections of ancient […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Chilly Day Around Houhai , , , ,

The Many Chinese Words for “Lane”

Suoyi Hutong, Beijing There’s several different names in English for small, secondary streets that run between blocks or behind major roads. Alley and lane are the words most often used in North America, but there’s significant variation in the UK, where regional words like vennel, chare, wynd, twitten and jigger are common. It’s a similar […]

Have a Laugh

Deep in the Hutongs. Beijing, China

Posted in: Asia Pacific by Andrew Rochfort 1 Comment , , ,

Destroying Beijing’s Hutongs

[youtube]EqRt6oK2k2s[/youtube] Last year, Danwei TV, an internet television station that produces short videos about China, produced a series of episodes on Beijing’s famous hutongs, old neighbourhoods built around narrow laneways and courtyards. Over the past couple of decades, the number of hutongs in Beijing has dropped dramatically as they have been bulldozed for new residential […]