Critical Investigation on the City Wall Preservation and Restoration: Issues and Challenges

Figure 1 & 2: Land Use Conflict (left); Discontinuity and Transition (Right)
Figure 1 & 2: Land Use Conflict (left); Discontinuity and Transition (Right)
Figure 3 & 4: Poor Maintenance (Left); Neglected Regional Transportation (Right)
Figure 3 & 4: Poor Maintenance (Left); City centre-focussed Transportation Network (Right)

 

Looking at these photos, the evidence of modernisation and rapid city transformation can be clearly seen, lying in the somehow intended and unintended boundaries between the city wall and the newly constructed buildings. But is it really the right way to treat the city, the heritage, and the inhabitants?  There are a lot more to consider and challenges to overcome. Including the bridging between different areas and the continuity of the transitional spaces between the old remains and new infrastructures. The tension between the citizens with the government. The uneven and dispersed development of the heavily developed west bund in contrast to the loosely developed yudong area. The lack of transportation nodes and connectivity on the regional areas.

Well, prior to defining the outcomes of the Datong City Rehabilitation as success or failure, it is better to view the Datong City Wall in both ways.

The outside world often misunderstood that the Chinese government is flooded with corrupt officers, however, Mayor Geng’s doing proved that there are governors who wanted to make a difference for the good of people. At least this is what most of the Datong citizens believed, and the Chinese government’s selling point. And because of this huge Ancient City Restoration Project, most of the modern buildings were moved out from the city wall, in order to restore the traditional city structure. His visions in transforming the recessing coal mining industrial city into a cultural tourism city, encouraging Datong to make profit from cultural capitals.

However, although Mayor Geng was embraced and loved by his fellow citizens, even some of them begged him to say, and protested when the step-down order came in 2013, transferring the Mayor to Taiyuan, there are too much to deal with and a lot of unresolved problems. Over 50 million of people were left unattended, some were fortunate enough to regain their properties, but poorly finished building; some with no shelter, and no one to go to. Not to mention, the 3 billion debt left behind. Some people wonder, “Who gave Mayor Geng the power to demolish 50 million people’s houses? Did the government ask for citizen’s consents and seek for planner experts’ opinions before the construction? Why can’t the people get back their home?” A Datong citizen criticised “Is city development depending on one man’s doing, or it should be generated from the local residence’s collective opinion? As a Datong citizen, in what degree we actively engage in the reconstruction of our city. Since urbanisation belongs to the people, then the urbanisation of a city should listen to their own people.”

 

Figure: Building Demolishment Making Way for the Restoration of Old City Walls
Figure 5: Building Demolishment Making Way for the Restoration of Old City Walls

 

Figure: Tenement Houses in Taiping Street after the Relocation (November 2016)
Figure 6: Tenement Houses in Taiping Street after the Relocation (November 2016)

 

Figure 7: Residential Quarters waiting for Demolishment inside the Old City
Figure 7: Residential Quarters waiting for Demolishment inside the Old City

 

References:

  1. Xuhui. ( 2016). A Study on Datong City Spatial Developmental Strategies (2008-2030). China Urban Planning and Design Research Institution.
  2. WangJun (2016). The Exploration of the Ancient City Revival by “Whole Archaizing Rebuilding” after a Destruction: a Case Study of Datong Ancient City. Chinese Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House.

1 Comment on “Critical Investigation on the City Wall Preservation and Restoration: Issues and Challenges

  1. The critique from the Datong resident is very impressive. It’s what I always think about during this course. When an urban plan fails and even threatens the lives of citizens, who could they blame? The one who makes all the decisions? Why could this one person represent all the people to make such decisions? If the citizens could really blame him/her, but is blaming help to solve anything of the situation anymore?

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