Sun, January 29, 2012
China > Mainland

Historic home razed over holiday

2012-01-29 02:19:37 GMT2012-01-29 10:19:37(Beijing Time)  Global Times

The rubble of architect Liang Sicheng's old residence on Saturday. Liang protested, in vain, the demolition of Beijing's old city walls in the 1950s. Photo: Guo Yingguang/GT

Architects and cultural heritage protection experts criticized the demolition of a protected cultural site and former residence of a renowned Chinese architect couple on Saturday.

The site's unauthorized demolition was exposed in the local media during the Spring Festival holiday.

The demolition was conducted without government approval and the demolition company will be held responsible, according to the Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage on Saturday. The government is working on a rebuilding plan at the original site, the administration said.

A Global Times reporter found the former residence was mostly destroyed on Saturday. It was the home of deceased architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin, where the couple lived from 1931-37, at Beizongbu Hutong, Dongcheng district. Several visitors snapped pictures of the destruction, where only part of the gatehouse and a small room beside remained.

"I didn't know famous architects used to live here until the recent media reports," said a neighbor surnamed Li, who lives next to the demolished site. Beijing Fuheng Real Estate Development Company, developer of the project, is overseeing the demolition, according to a notice posted at the site.

Li and his family are among the few remaining households in his building, and they were asked to evacuate to make room for a new building for scientific research at the site.

The municipal administration ordered Dongcheng district cultural commission to look into the case after the demolition was exposed in public on January 27. According to the commission's report to the administration, the developer conducted the demolition "to make repairs" since the original site was too old and had safety hazards, the Beijing News reported.

"Protected relics can't be rebuilt once demolished, according to international cultural heritage protection principles," said Chen Zhihua, professor with the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University, and a former student of Liang and Lin.

According to the administration's plan, original material will be preserved for the reconstruction. A government-assigned, certified design company will design the project, and the district cultural commission will supervise construction, set to begin after the Spring Festival Holiday, according to a Xinhua report on Saturday.

"Building a replica is making another huge mistake," Chen said.

"The demolition was not supposed to happen," an anonymous official with the municipal cultural heritage administration said on Saturday.

"I've had so much pressure lately, and I don't want to see the matter getting more serious," he said. The administration will post a public statement about it on their official website today, he said.

The reconstruction plan to replace the old with new structures is stupid and ridiculous, said He Shuzhong, founder of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center. Demolition of the site started in 2009 and was later halted after media exposure and by government order, he said, "and now the developer is doing this shameless work again." He said authorities should preserve what's left, and make a low-cost reconstruction plan using original material from the site.

Chen suggests a heritage park or memorial hall should be built.

"The hall's design should be different from the old house," Chen said, "and we should keep some ruins as a reminder for future generations."

National cultural heritage authorities said the residence was listed as an "immovable relic" and is protected by law, according to a Beijing News report in January 2010.

"Hopefully, the public debate about the demolition can raise the public awareness of heritage protection, so we can prevent tragedies like this from happening again," He said.

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