In the run up to the Beijing Olympics of 2008 the city underwent a complete regeneration. This spelt trouble for the ancient mazes of hutongs that made up the majority of the old town, and many were demolished to make way for glittering skyscrapers and urban renewal. Now these areas are in danger of becoming extinct…but not if Zhang Ke has anything to do with it.
Zhang Ke of ZAO/standard architecture has embarked on a project titled the Micro Hutong Renewal project. Seeing the potential in these ancient neighbourhoods, he aims to show the world that the properties these courtyard houses have maintained for thousands of years can even now be taken into a modern context.
“The subtle complexity of the hutong as an authentic urban space has been overlooked both by developers, who most of the time prefer to see it as a tabula rasa so that they can build more square meters, and by the defenders of picturesque historic preservation,” said Ke.
He then went on to say “The Micro Hutong Renewal projects, by avoiding the usual methods of hutong restoration, aim to explore the potential of hutongs and courtyards as a generator of communal space and catalyst of social interaction,”
The first property to undertake this transformation Cha’er Hutong, a 300-400 year-old hutong near Tiananmen Square. It was completed in 2014 and has subsequently sparked many more in its wake.