Beijing (1949-1954) / IV. Refining the Axis of Beijing: Revolution and Nostalgia in the Planning of the PRC Capital

Yu, Shuishan. “Refining the Axis of Beijing: Revolution and Nostalgia in the Planning of the PRC Capital.” Journal of Urban History 34, no. 4 (May 2008): 571–608.

The article examines the urban planning debates that led to the expansion of Chang’an Avenue as an important east-west urban axis and its irreversible changes in Beijing’s urban fabric, focusing on the dominant roles of urban axes in different planning proposals in the early 1950s. The author’s argument is that the failure of Liang-Chen Proposal was mainly because of “the nostalgic nature of its program and its close affiliation with the imperial model”, which mismatched the revolutionary spirit of planning a new socialist capital at that time, where politics played a decisive role in the urban transformation. The match of the master plan with the Communist Party’s political agenda was a significant reason for the success of other proposals that renovated the old city from the core area.

The author also provides a systematic overview of the historical axes in Beijing’s planning, which shaped the image and identity of the city to a large extent. The argument of Liang-Chen proposal’s nostalgic nature is based on the comparison between the urban spatial sequence and location of politically significant buildings in the old imperial city and their plan. The parallel new administrative center in Liang-Chen Proposal shared much in common with the old city while leaving it untouched, which made it hard to meet the expectation of the government to highlight the existing core area as the focal point of the whole nation.

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