A couple weeks ago, a series of photos were posted online that showed some historic buildings in the city of Jinan were under threat of demolition as a result of a construction site. The photos attracted a lot of comments on the Internet, and many people accused the developers of damaging the century-old buildings. The Jinan Planning Department investigated the site and found that it was a false alarm: the two historic buildings were actually protected by the developer, despite the fact that the surrounding area of the buildings had been changed completely. This case brings up the issue of historic building preservation in China, since many old buildings have not been as lucky as these two.
Historic buildings bear memories from the past, so destroying them also means the loss of history and culture. In the urbanization process, old buildings in Jinan have disappeared one by one. Niu Guodong, a well-known urban studies scholar from Jinan, once said that “Jinan is changing everyday as the pace of urbanization accelerates. Hundreds of old alleys and buildings with a large amount of historic information have disappeared. As the hometown in my heart gets blurry, my confusion is getting stronger.”
Many cities have adopted the practice of relocating historic buildings to another place and reconstructing them. Even though it is a type of preservation, when the surrounding context of the historic building changes, the value of the building decreases. Under many circumstances, even though cities have comprehensive historic preservation plans, a lot of old buildings are still demolished. However, it is fortunate that every time this has happened, there have always been citizens who voice their concerns. How to channel this civic participation so that it can make an impact on the government’s decision-making is a question that we need to consider.
Do you know any cases of civic participation that have played a role in historic preservation?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.
The original article, published in Chinese, can be found here.