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Lilong Housing, A Traditional Settlement Form

© Qian Guan 1996

A THESIS SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES AND RESEARCH IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE

All right reserved. This work may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by photocopy or other means, without permission of the author.

Table of contents

Abstract (see below)

Acknowledgment (see below)

Introduction (see below)

Chapter 1 History of Shanghai

1.1 GEOGRAPHIC CONTEXT OF SHANGHAI
1.2 HISTORY OF SHANGHAI

Chapter 2 The urban development of Shanghai and the generation of Lilong housing

2.1 URBAN DEVELOPMENT OF SHANGHAI
2.2 URBAN CHARACTERISTICS OF SHANGHAI
2.3 THE PATTERN OF LILONGS
2.4 THE DEVELOPMENT OF LILONGS
2.5 CLASSIFICATION OF LILONGS

Chapter 3 Five housing models of Lilongs

3.1 THE OLD SHI-KU-MEN LILONG HOUSE
3.2 THE NEW SHI-KU-MEN LILONG HOUSE
3.3 THE NEW-TYPE LILONG HOUSE
3.4 THE GARDEN LILONG HOUSE
3.5 THE APARTMENT LILONG HOUSE
3.6 EVOLUTION OF THE HOUSE FORMS

Chapter 4 Case studies

4.1 HONG-DE LI
4.2 ZHUN-DE LI
4.3 TONG-FU LI
4.4 CHANG-LE VILLAGE
4.5 JING-AN VILLA
4.6 HUAI-HAI VILLAGE
4.7 LI-YANG GARDEN
4.8 SHANG-FANG GARDEN
4.9 SHAN-NAN VILLAGE
4.10 GARDEN APARTMENT
4.11 SHING-KANG GARDEN

Chapter 5 Planning features of Lilong settlements

5.1 STREET PATTERN
5.2 LAND-USE PATTERN
5.3 A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF DENSITY AND OTHER QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF LILONGS WITH CONTEMPORARY HOUSING PROJECTS

Chapter 6 Lilong housing as an urban form

6.1 LILONG AS AN URBAN FORM
6.2 LILONG AS A COMMUNITY
6.3 LILONG HOUSING AS AN EMBODIMENT OF DWELLING CULTURE

Postscript

References

Diagrams and charts

Abstract

"Li" means neighborhoods, "Long" means lanes. These two words combine to describe an urban housing form which characterizes the city of Shanghai. Indissociable from the growth of Shanghai from 1840s to 1949, lilong settlements still comprise the majority of housing stock in the city center today. Inherited traditional dwelling patterns prevailing in the southeast China, profound transformation due to drastic social changes during that era produced lilong housing. Though, these transformation were demonstrated by the evolution of lilong's house forms, the settlement's general organization pattern persisted.

Lilong settlement, as a low-rise, ground-related housing pattern, has many advantageous features: hierarchical spatial organization network, separation of public and private zones, high degree of safety control, strong sense of neighborly interaction and social cohesiveness, and so on. These factors make the lilong neighborhoods a pleasant place to live and hence they are loved by local populace.

This thesis traces the evolution of lilong settlement forms in response to social transformation, and analyzes its indigenous design features and urban characteristics. As an ultimate goal, this thesis also explores the key characteristics of this settlement pattern, and the valuable experience that could be drawn as reference in contemporary housing design.

RÉSUMÉ

"Li" signifie l'entourage et "long" signifie ruelle. L'ensemble de ces deux mots représentent un type d'habitation qui caractérise la ville de Shanghaï. "Lilong" a coexistée avec le développement de Shanghaï de 1840 à 1949, comprenant la majorité de l'habitation du centre ville. Les maisons "lilong" ont hérité une forme traditionelle résidentielle dans la région sud-est de la Chine et la transformation drastique de l'époque.

L'établissement de "lilong", comme une forme de bâtiment résidentielle populaire a de nombreux avantages: l'organization hiérarchique de l'espace, séparation entre les espaces publiques et privés, l'interaction sociale des voisins, etc. Les qualités des maisons "lilong" créent une atmosphère agréable d'habitation qui est bien aimé par les habitants.

Cette thèse examine l'évolution de l'établissement des maisons "lilong" au point de vue des transformations sociaux, et elle analise ces caractères urbains et indigènes. Finalement, cette thèse explore les aspects importants de ces types d'habitation qui peuvent être utilisé dans la planification des projets residentiels contemporains.

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Acknowledgment

I would like to express my gratitude to my advisor, Prof. Vikram Bhatt, for his constant guidance and interest to my thesis topic. His advice and encouragement to my work, and his patience and effort in correcting my thesis have been of great help.

I would like to thank the many graduate students in this program during my time, particularly to Ghader Afshari, for his useful discussion about this topic during earlier stage, and to Abhijat Sinha and Sriram Ganapathi, for their enthusiastic help and friendship. I would also like to thank my former classmate in Tongji University, Shanghai, Zheng-yu Xie and Yi Cheng, who have provided me with some wonderful information.

I would like to extend my gratitude to graduate secretary, Marcia King, who is always generous in giving me her assistance and support throughout my graduate studies. Thanks also go to my many other classmates, who have made the two year long study period more memorial.

My deepest gratitude is to my parents, who have help me collect the earliest information for my work, and whose moral support has been essential for the completion of this thesis. And to my husband, Tao Zheng, who gives me many support during my whole graduate studies and who help me with the final editing of this thesis.

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Introduction

 

Background

Lilongs, the small court-yard housing is named after through the principles of circulation in their urban organization: "Li" means neighborhood, "Long" means small lanes. Their origin lies in the spatial concept and construction in traditional Southeast Chinese dwellings. Their interior plans evolved as life styles became Westernized. They were the earliest type of mass commodity housing in Chinese history (Wang, 1989, p.4) . Their density increased under the extreme circumstances of the growing metropolis of Shanghai from 1870 onwards. Since then, they were built in a large scale in the center of this city, and accounted for 60% of the total dwelling areas by 1949 (Wagn, 1989, p.6).

A lilong settlement generally varies in size from 0.35 to 5.0 hectares. Its housing units are two or three storied high, attached side by side, having one side lane at the front and another service lane at the back. The whole settlement has a couple of main lanes, used as the major circulation passages, which are accessible from the commercial streets. The side lanes, leading to each housing units, connect to the main lanes. The clear, rational structure of a lilong settlement give a high degree of security and quietness to its internal living environment, contrary to its noisy urban surrounding dominated by commercial developments. The front housing units along the perimeter of a lilong settlement are generally converted to shops which maintain the continuity of commercial activities along the streets. Some housing units inside the settlement have also integrated small-scaled, home-based businesses to provide the daily amenities of the entire community.

According to the difference in its basic unit- a house model, and the condition under which they have emerged, lilongs are basically classified into five types. They are: 1) the Old Shi-ku-men Lilongs, 2) the New Shi-ku-men Lilongs, 3) the New-type Lilongs, 4) the Garden Lilongs, and 5) the Apartment Lilongs. The evolution of lilongs from a traditional Chinese dwelling prototype to a more Westernized pattern is obvious in the sequential study of these five types. However, this drastic transformation was not only a result of the increasing penetration of Western cultures into this port city, but also an inevitable outcome of the local social and economic changes. The development of economy, the rise of land speculation, the growth of population, and the disintegration of traditional extended families after the collapse of the Chinese Empire in 1911, all contributed to this trend. However, regardless of the evolution of its basic house models, the general pattern of the settlement form persisted. The traditional spatial concept remained in the overall composition of this settlement form.

Rationale

Lilong housing has being in existence for over 140 years. Except the earliest built ones, the majority of lilong housing will keep in use for the next several decades due to a sharp housing shortage in this city. Its many advantages, like spatial economy, efficient internal organization framework, convenient local service, high degree of safety control, and strong social cohesiveness within the community, has cultivated a dynamic but harmonious living atmosphere, the factors found missing in many contemporary housing development.

However, lilong housing are increasingly under intense commercial pressure. Due to fast development of Shanghai since the adoption of the "Open-door Policy" started in 1980, the economy has greatly developed. The commercial land speculation in center Shanghai has become so high that this low-rise pattern of residential settlements is facing strong challenges of urban renewal. Lack of maintenance and old age of these structures also causes problem. This situation presents serious challenge for architects and planners in their endeavor of preservation of this traditional housing architecture.

A comprehensive study of lilong housing - a well-documented report of the various types of its physical form, and an architectural analysis of its indigenous spatial pattern and advantageous design features - will help understanding of lilongs' architectural, historic and cultural values. This understanding is crucial to the work of improving existing lilongs, and also essential for building of new housing projects which are humane, and pleasant living environments. It is from these points of view that the author embark on this study.

The intended audience for the study are researchers, scholars, architects and planners, and architectural students in housing field. This study will not only provide a comprehensive understanding of lilong housing, but also give extensive information for further research in this field.

Goals

The overall goal of this study is to provide a comprehensive understanding of lilong housing as a settlement pattern. Though there are many sub-goals involved to achieved the general goal, this thesis concentrates on the following two major tasks:

1) Documents the various types of the physical form of lilong housing, giving an illustrative description of the evolution of lilongs from a traditional prototype to a more Westernized open dwelling.

2) Conducts an architectural analysis of the various design aspects of lilong housing, such as density, safety, privacy, individuality, social interaction, life convenience, dynamics, etc., in comparison with contemporary housing developments, summarizing its advantages and disadvantages.

Methodology

This study is based on Literature Review, Case Study, and Date analysis, which can be explained as follows:

(I). Literature Review

Collect information;

Undertake background reading;

Careful review research within the same field or research and theories relevant to this topic;

Generalize the state of art.

(II). Case Study

Prepare a Framework or format which can be followed during the next stage of analysis;

Prepare questionnaire for site interview;

Travel to Shanghai, review lilong settlements;

Search for graphic and literatural information about the wide range of lilong housing from certain departments, bureaus and institutes;

Select two typical lilong settlements of each type to conduct case studies; Collect the first-hand information from the sites - maps, blue prints, plans and layouts, and detailed graphic information, etc.; and interview residents to get first source of information;

(III). Data Analysis

Reproduce collected graphic information;

Compile information; Organize information in prepared tabular framework or diagram;

Analyze information in a regular format by following certain criteria.

(IV). Synthesis

Summarize and generalize the overall findings.

Scopes

Lilong housing at present covers almost 40% of the total dwelling areas of this city. The gross areas account for 35,000,000m2 (Yu Minfei, 1992, p.148). This thesis is not able to cover the extensive lilong settlements, but looks at their common characteristics and features. The cases and examples used in this thesis are all exemplar and illustrative, hence the results and findings are representative and rational.

Structure

Chapter 1 of the thesis reviews the social, economic context of lilong housing, particularly the history of Shanghai from 1840s to 1949. Chapter 2 introduces the emergence, development of lilong housing, elaborating its general pattern and classifying its different types. Chapter 3 clarifies different house models which make up the five types of lilongs, and examines the evolution of this settlement form from a ground-related, court-yard pattern of tradition, to an off-ground apartment-like modern dwelling. Chapter 4 is a narrative of 11 case studies of lilong settlements, examing the livability of each lilong, and elaborating the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Chapter 5 analyzes urban characteristics of lilong settlement forms, examing its density in a comparison with prevalent contemporary housing development in this city. Chapter 6, by using contemporary Neighborhood & Community Design Principles, analyzes the design features of lilong housing, and summarize the valuable experience or essence that make this pattern of dwelling specially fond by local people. The Postscript overviews the problems in existing lilong stocks, and points out the critical importance to the renovation task of lilongs.

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