Chapter 4: Case Studies

During the summer of 1993, the author undertook a three-month field trip to China to gather information about the implementation of neighborhood regeneration. Among other things, this field trip allowed her to conduct a survey of eight housing regeneration projects recently implemented in the inner city of Beijing. This chapter, which presents the information collected during the project surveys, is divided into two parts. The first part presents the organization and methodology used to conduct the field study. In the second part, the eight case studies are described.

4.1. The field survey

The main objective of the field survey was to collect information about specific regeneration projects which would constitute the case studies for the present thesis. It was also intended to complete the available information on the process of regeneration, to verify the accuracy of data previously collected. The survey focused on the physical aspects of the projects, such as site organization, build ing quality and layout, alterations of the design; the social aspect of the projects, including the residents' different uses of the space and community life; and the more technical aspects of the projects such as building costs, relocation procedures, and home-buying.

For obvious reasons, the survey could not be undertaken by the author alone. Coincidentally, a group of students working on the issue of housing regeneration in Beijing under the direction of professor Lu Junhua of Tsinghua University had planned to undertake a survey of regeneration projects in the old city during the first two weeks of June 1993. After discussions with professor Lu, it was agreed that the author could join the team and that the information collected could be used for the present thesis. Besides the author, the survey team was composed of four graduate students, including two Chinese students, Tan Ying and Liu Yang, both from Tsinghua University School of Planning, and two visiting scholars, Daniel Abramson from the M.I.T. School of Architecture and Planning and Jonathan Hannam from Melbourne University Planning Department.

The methodology used for the project surveys was based on past experience and on the type of information sought after. It consisted of a desktop survey and the surveys of the different projects, which was further divided into physical surveys, informal interviews, and observations. Data was gathered from both primary and secondary sources in the form of plans, sketches, photographs, and notes.

The desktop survey was carried out prior to the project surveys in order to gather quantitative data and graphical documents on each of the projects to be visited. This information provided the team members with a basic knowledge of each project which proved essential for the conduct of the project surveys.

Each site visit involved a physical survey of the project to complete the information gathered in the desktop survey. The major public transport systems and daily services in the vicinity were identified. Landscaping, site furnishings, private appropriation of the space, modifications of the original plans, and alterations such as building additions, enclosing of balconies, security doors, window awnings, etc., were carefully recorded with photographs and sketches and located on the site plans. In each project, eight to ten apartments, chosen randomly among the different housing prototypes, were visited and surveyed.

Informal interviews were conducted in each of the projects to get feedback from the diverse actors involved in the process, especially from the residents who had experienced regeneration. The interviews were conducted with the head of the household of the apartment visited or with residents encountered in the outdoor spaces. Between eight to twelve residents were interviewed in each project. They were generally very cooperative. The interviews were conducted informally, without the use of a questionnaire, to insure the spontaneity of the replies. After the researchers briefly explained the purpose of the study, a discussion would begin, often over a cup of tea. Information was shared gener ally without hesitation about original living conditions, the household structure, the form of tenure, the relocation process, how long the resident's family had been living on the site etc., and the residents were asked to comment on the new project design and the apartment layout. The interview was usually followed by a tour of the apartment. Neighborhood committees were also systematically interviewed in each project to get information about project management and more accurate data regarding popula tion, costs and general relocation procedures. In a few instances, project architects were also inter viewed, with the purpose of acquiring more technical information about the projects.

Observation was used to gather information regarding the particular use of interior and exterior spaces at different times of the day. The behavior of people in the space were observed and recorded. One whole day was spent at each of the projects to allow team members to witness the whole range of activities taking place. This also permitted residents to become familiar with the team's presence and carry out their daily activities as usual. Observations were noted chronologically and the exact time of the day was carefully recorded. Sketches and photographs were also numbered and located on the site plan. Samples of such recordings can be found in Appendix I.

Specific tasks were assigned to each team member. The three foreign students concentrated on the physical survey and observation work, while the two Chinese students conducted the interviews. After visiting the projects, the team members started organizing the data. The information collected was briefly analyzed, some plans were redrawn, and a report was produced. The information for the case studies presented in this chapter comes mainly from this report. Further information and new illustrations were later added by the author.

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4.2. Case studies

The case studies comprise eight projects implemented in the inner-city of Beijing (fig. 4.1).

All consist of residential projects built on sites previously occupied by old residential quarters, located in the old city of Beijing along or within the second ring-road. They are among the first neighborhood regeneration projects to be partially or fully completed under the Housing Renewal Program, and the only ones that are inhabited. Three relocation projects located in the outskirts of the city were also visited. Because of the great dimensions of some of the estates, the study concentrates on the most representative portion of each site, in most cases the one which had been completed and inhabited for the longest period.

The projects are presented chronologically according to their date of completion. Each is ac companied by a short qualitative description and illustrated by relevant graphical material. Project description is presented in terms of general conditions, which includes location, original site condi tions, and the project strategy; and in terms of design features, including housing prototypes, apart ment types, site organization, and outdoor spaces. The description is concluded with a brief evaluation based on the residents' observations regarding the positive and negative aspects of the project. For each case study, a summary table with quantitative data is provided. At the end of the section, a general cumulative table is presented for comparison purposes 1.

a) Xiao Hou Cang

Xiao Hou Cang is a small estates composed of a variety of traditional looking prototypes bor dering both side of shady, planted lanes (fig. 4.2).

General Conditions

Xiao Hou Cang is located in the northwest corner of the old Tartar City, in the East City district (fig. 4.3). The Xi Zhi Men transport hub is within walking distance of the site. There is a hospital and a large public garden in the vicinity. A kindergarten and a primary school are adjacent to the site. A lively shopping area can be found one block north on Xi Zhi Men street (fig. 4.4).

The site was originally occupied by single-story courtyard houses. More than half of the original houses on the site were built before 1949 and most were in very poor condition, overcrowded and lacking basic facilities (Huan Hui, 1991) (fig. 4.5). The new project was designed in 1987 by Huan Hui, an architect at the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design and Research, and built between 1988 and 1990 as part of the four experimental projects implemented before the introduction of the renewal program. The main goals of the project were to preserve the community by rehousing all the original residents on the site and to increase their living standards by providing them with better-built houses and more storage space (Huan Hui, 1991). In order to recover the costs of renewal, additional units as well as a commercial building were built to be sold at market rate.

Almost all of the original residents moved back to the site after its renewal. They had to find temporary housing for themselves during the construction period and had to pay a rent deposit before moving into their new units, but were forgiven from paying rent for the first three years. They only recently started paying a low rent. Only twenty households bought their units at the subsidized price of 280 ¥/m2. Commercial units were sold for 3,000 ¥/m 2 (Huan Hui, 1991).

Design Features

The project consists of nine residential and one commercial building arranged along small lanes (fig. 4.6). Each plot is enclosed with a high wall along the street edge. Most buildings consist of walk-up apartment buildings ranging from two to six stories with north-south exposure. Some east-west oriented buildings were built to increase land-use efficiency. One of the main features of the projects is the preservation of the original lanes and trees on the site. Their location had a great impact on the design, resulting in a diversity of housing prototypes and apartment layouts.

There are three different housing prototypes on the site. One consists of a large slab-type east-west oriented building which functions with a double-loaded corridor (fig. 4.7). It has a terraced roof and sawtoothed facades to increase southern exposure. Units are deep and narrow, with a polygonal living room. The other two prototypes consist of small apartment blocks with a central staircase and sloped roofs (fig 4.9 & 4.10). One prototype has only two units per landing, all enjoying a double orientation; the other have up to five units per floor, some of which are single-oriented (fig. 4.8). Staircases and most kitchens are lit and ventilated by light wells or air shafts. Ground floor apartments are provided with small enclosed yards, while those on the upper floors have standard-size balconies. Top floor apartments have attics and large roof terraces. Central gas and heating systems were not included in the initial project design.

The amount and form of outdoor space on the site varies widely. It includes small yards allo cated to individual households, larger semi-private yards connected to an entry stairway shared by two to ten units, small open sitting areas, and the lanes themselves, lushly planted on both sides. The large collective yards act as exterior hallways and are used mainly for circulation and bicycle parking. Both private and semi-private yards are surrounded by high walls of traditional gray bricks and accessed through red gates, inspired by the local architecture. The lanes, broader than an average hutong, serve as the only collective outdoor space. Site furnishing, however, was not provided along the lanes. Access to the estate was initially uncontrolled, but a gate was recently placed at the southeast entrance next to the neighborhood committee office to control access.


The main positive aspect of the project is the preservation of the social and physical structures of the original neighborhood. The preservation of the street pattern and trees, the use of traditional building materials, the application of concepts borrowed from the traditional architecture, and the relatively small size of the project contribute to its successful integration into the surroundings. The old trees have become focal points of the public space. The garden walls unify the street edge, ease the maintenance of the public areas, provide many households with secure outdoor space, successfully mask building additions erected at the base of the buildings, and protect the public space from too much encroachment. The small yards have been highly individualized and a few have been converted into private businesses. The large roof terrace of one of the top floor units was also turned into a private kindergarten managed by the residents themselves.

On the negative side, the absence of central heating and gas is seen as a major problem. Inhabitants also complain about the limited living space, which has led to the proliferation of balcony and terrace enclosures. In some instances, balcony areas have even been enlarged with the use of cantilever systems, illustrated in figure 4.11. Construction quality is poor, and the single-oriented units in the sawtoothed building are particularly unpopular, especially because of the polygonal rooms. Light wells and air shafts are dirty and smelly, and management and maintenance of the indoor common space is poor.

Table 4.1: Xiao Hou Cang

b) Dong Nan Yuan

Dong Nan Yuan is a small and dense estate of traditional-inspired houses arranged in clusters around small communal yards. A narrow lane, reminiscent of the animated hutong, runs between the clusters (fig. 4.12 & 4.13).

General Conditions

Dong Nan Yuan is located in the old Outer City and is part of the Xuan Wu City district, known to be the poorest of the four inner-city districts (fig. 4.14). The site lies just south of the famous Liu Li Chang traditional shopping street, which attracts thousands of tourists each year. It is surrounded by a particularly confusing and inaccessible maze of narrow hutongs which constitute a predominantly pedestrian environment. The He Ping Men subway station and the Qian Men transportation hub are within walking distance of the site (fig. 4.15).

The site is part of what was traditionally a poor workers' residential area suffering from serious overcrowding. The very narrow hutong limited access to the site to emergency vehicles.

This neighborhood was said to have the worst living conditions in the district, with 80% of the old houses dating from before 1949. Most houses poorly ventilated and received little lighting. The average ground level of the site was lower than that of the surrounding area, which, combined with a poor drainage, made the neighborhood damp and susceptible to frequent flooding (fig. 4.16).

Dong Nan Yuan was one of the four pilot projects carried out prior to the implementation of the Housing Renewal Program in Beijing. The project was designed by the Beijing Institute of Architec tural Design in 1987 and built between 1989 and 1991. One of the main objectives of the project was that all original residents would be rehoused on the site after its renewal. Ten percent more units would also have to be built to allow extended families to split into independent households. In addition, twenty-four units had to be provided for different work units as a compensation for the loss of the office space they previously had on the site. Building height had to be limited to three stories because of the proximity to the Liu Li Chang historical area.

The project was built in different phases so that only a few households at a time would have to find temporary housing. All original residents moved back to the site after only one year in temporary housing. No rent deposit had to be paid by the residents before returning to the site and the rents paid are standard subsidized Beijing rates. Very few people have been willing to buy their own units, even at a highly subsidized rate.

Figure 4.17: Project site plan

Design Features

The project consists of thirty-eight almost identical three-story walkup apartment buildings and one conventional slab apartment building intended for newlywed couples. Buildings are arranged in clusters to create four well proportioned communal yards, as illustrated in Figure 4.13, and a few smaller, more private yards. The main lane that used to service the site was preserved (fig. 4.17). Clusters line up along the lanes so that no open space is left unused.

Prototypes consist of traditional gray bricks walkups with sloped roofs (fig. 4.18). Each one contains six units, two on each floor, which are exposed on three sides and accessed through external staircases. Apartments are small, deep and narrow with main rooms placed at each end and services grouped in the center (fig. 4.19). Buildings are not equipped with central gas and heating systems, although space for their future installment was built in. Storage space for bicycles on the site is notice ably absent.

All residents are provided with private outdoor spaces. Ground floor apartments generally have access to a small private yard or to the communal yard. Second floor units have a standard-size balcony. Top-floor units enjoy an attic for storage and a large roof terrace shared by two units. The communal yards, shared by about fifteen households, are lushly planted. Access to these yards is some times indirect, which contributes to their privacy. Gates located at both ends of the central lane regulate access to the site and limit vehicular circulation. The neighborhood committee's office is located near the southern gate and provides good surveillance.

Figure 4.18: Side elevation and typical section

Figure 4.19: Typical floor plans


The project is a good example of very economical public housing. The high ratio of external stairs to units allows direct and personal connection to the outdoors for most households. This small-scale project, built with an incremental approach, provides a very human environment. The use of local building materials, such as gray bricks and roof tiles, and of traditional elements such as sloped roof and interior courtyard, contribute to the successful integration of the project to the environment. The original street connections have been preserved and residents continue to interact with old neighbors in the vicinity.

The outdoor spaces, although limited in size, are quite popular. The project layout provides a good hierarchy of space, from public to private, and allows for a wide range of outdoor activities in the yards or the hutong. Communal yards are sized to suit neighborly activities and are easily monitored and identified. Each one has its own distinct character and is well maintained by the residents. The yards are often used as an extension of the living space by ground floor residents. The central lane is used as a traditional hutong and has been appropriated by residents whose apartments are not connected to a yard. A small shop for daily goods was opened by one of the residents under a staircase in the lane, as illustrated in Figure 4.12.

Table 4 4.2: Dong Nan Yuan

However, most residents consider the building standards to be too low. People have enclosed their balconies, landings and even the space under external stairways to increase their living area. The absence of central gas or heating systems, and of any form of bicycle shelter, causes great dissatisfaction. Another problem identified by the residents is that second floor dwellers do not have sufficient private outdoor space, and that top floor terraces have to be shared by two units.

c) Ju Er Hutong

Ju Er Hutong is a small fragmented estate composed of clusters of high quality courtyard pro totypes whose elaborate design was inspired by the traditional Chinese architecture (fig. 4.20 & 4.21).

Figure 4.20: View from a lane

Figure 4.21: View of a yard

General Conditions

Ju Er Hutong is located in a lively neighborhood along Jiao Dao Kou street in the northern section of the old Inner City, part of the East City District (fig. 4.22). It lies a few hundred meters from the classic historical block of the Drum and Bell towers and the historic Shi Sha Hai lakes district. The historic and cultural value of this area explain the small scale and great scrutiny used in development. The area is well serviced with convenient public transportation and the An Ding Men subway station to the north of the site can be easily reached (fig. 4.23).

Ju Er Hutong was identified as one of the sites most in need of renewal. It suffered from extreme overcrowding, with a ground coverage reaching 80%. The ground level was lower than that of the street, causing humidity problems, and two-thirds of the households received little or no sunlight. The nearest public toilet was one-hundred meters away. A non-polluting semiconductor factory com plex originally located on the site and difficult to relocate was allowed to remain after regeneration. To do so, the project had to be fragmented, and implemented in different phases.

Figure 4.22: Project location

Figure 4.23: Situation plan

The first phase of the project was developed as one of the four experimental projects launched in 1987 and was built between 1990 and 1992. The second phase, which is only partially completed, is among the first projects to be regenerated as part of the renewal program. The design was conceived by professor Wu Liang Yong's research group of Tsinghua University in Beijing, and implemented by the East City District's housing development company. One of the main design objectives was to develop a new housing prototype that would improve the living standards and achieve higher densities while, at the same time, retaining some aspects of the traditional environment and preserving the existing community.

The condition placed upon old residents for being rehoused on the site was that they purchase their apartment. In other words, only people who could afford to buy their units were allowed to stay. In the first phase, thirteen households out of forty-two could afford to come back. Most of the remaining residents exchanged their hukou with families from other parts of the old city who were willing to pay to move into Ju Er Hutong2. Others were relocated to various housing estates in the city. In the second phase, thirty out of eighty households were able to stay. The majority of the rest were moved to Xiao Ying, north of the old city's An Ding Men gate, next to the Asian Games village. This new site was being constructed at the same time as Ju Er Hutong, so residents could be transferred gradually. Temporary one-story housing at Dong Hua Ba was provided by the developer for people who were returning to the site. Residents spent about one year in temporary housing before moving back to Ju Er Hutong.

A housing cooperative was originally organized for old residents to purchase their units, with a membership fee that was to be split between the government, the work unit and the residents. How ever, the residents ended up paying the entire amount. The units could be bought by the original residents at the subsidized rate of 350 ¥/m2 , whereas the market price was fixed at 3,500 ¥/m 2 and later raised to 4,100 ¥/m2.

Figure 4.24: Project site plan

Figure 4.25: Basic unit

Design Features

Although in the initial design a model courtyard with standard apartment types was proposed, the numerous site constraints and the positioning of the old trees necessitated important modifications in the design so that today, most of the buildings and apartments are different. The project consists of two- and three-story walkup apartment blocks designed as perimeter buildings with a central yard. Buildings are tightly organized on the lots and sited specifically to preserve existing trees. Circulation space on the site is kept to a minimum and is limited to the two lanes bordering its southern and eastern edges.

The gray bricks, red doors, sloped roof and the layout with interior courtyard used in the design recall the style of the traditional Beijing house (fig. 4.26). Entry stairs are located in each corner of the yards and lead to external galleries overlooking the yard, from which units are accessed. In general, apartments are based on the typical Chinese apartment layout, with a larger central hall used as a living room and smaller bedrooms (fig. 4. 25). Kitchen are placed along one external facade, while the bathroom and toilet are separated. Most units enjoy a double orientation and standard-size balconies. Top-floor units have a roof terrace and an extra room in the attic (fig. 4.27). Bicycle parking is pro vided under the stairways.

Figure 4.26: Typical side elevation

Figure 4.27: Typical section

The enclosed yards are the principal open spaces at the project. They consist of square paved yards of about fifteen meters on each side which are used as large external hallways. Entry to the yards is uncontrolled, but since as many as fifteen units look down upon each yard, intrusion is rare. Vegetation is scarce, although some yards enjoy the presence of an old tree.

Table 4.3: Ju Er Hutong


The project is of high construction quality, with an attractive overall appearance. The high level of general maintenance, supplied by the East-City district, can be explained by the importance placed upon the image of this highly-publicized project. Strong regulations have forbidden residents from enclosing their balconies in the first phase, which is now permitted in the second phase, with restrictions regarding the design and the type and color of material used. The small-scale, incremental imple mentation of the project has been beneficial to the environment and the community. The preservation of the street pattern, of the site layout, and of the old trees on the site; and the use of building materials and patterns borrowed from the traditional architecture, helped to integrate the project to its surroundings.

However, the great complexity and high quality of the project have translated into very high costs, which have resulted in the low number of returning residents. The relocation of many of the original residents contributed to the scarce community life in the project, especially in the second phase, where most of the units were bought by wealthy work units to serve as offices or guest apart ments. The quality and prestige of the project have attracted market-rate paying buyers from around the world. Private appropriation of the common space is limited, even by the residents living on the ground floor. A small shop for daily goods was opened by residents in their tiny private yard along the southern edge of the site, although this practice is strictly forbidden.

d) Chun Feng Hutong

Chun Feng Hutong is a small estate subdivided into small well-planted lots on which brightly decorated apartment blocks are orderly arranged (fig. 4.28).

Figure 4.28: View of the project

General Conditions

Chun Feng Hutong is located in the western part of the old Outer City, in the traditional Muslim neighborhood, along Niu Street in the Xuan Wu District (fig. 4.29). The site is situated within a densely -built city block and is isolated from the main traffic roads. The historic Niu Jie Mosque, a popular tourist attraction, is adjacent to the site. Two other mosques are also located nearby, while the Muslim hospital is three-hundred meters away. Daily shopping, including stores carrying Muslim specialties, is conveniently located in the vicinity (fig. 4.30).

Prior to renewal, the site was a typical neighborhood of dense, one-story courtyard houses, an unusually high proportion of which were privately owned (up to 76%) (fig. 4.31). Eighty percent of the original residents were Muslim and most were small shop owners. The new project was designed after the research for the four experimental projects was over but before the official renewal program was established city-wide. It was built between 1990 and 1992.

Figure 4.29: Project location

Figure 4.30: Situation plan

All of the original residents moved back to the site after its renewal. They had to find temporary housing for themselves for the year-long construction period. Only eleven households bought their apartment at a subsidized price. Units were sold for 304 ¥/m 2 if paid all at once; the price was raised to 420 ¥/m 2 if the total amount was paid over three years. People were allowed to choose the floor of their new units when they signed the rehousing contract. As a result, most of the aged residents could get apartments on the ground floor, which is more convenient for them.

Figure 4.31: Original site condition

Figure 4.32: New project

Design Features

The new project consists of block-type walkup apartment buildings with flat roofs, arranged around planted open spaces (fig. 4.32). The building height in the first phase was limited to four stories because of its proximity to the Mosque. In the second phase, some buildings have as many as six floors. The majority of buildings on the site have a north-south orientation, although there are a few east-west oriented buildings. The first phase of the project has already been occupied, while the second phase is still in construction. The original lane layout was basically preserved.

One housing prototype is found in the project, highly decorated with colorful features inspired by Muslim architecture. The units follow the typical Chinese apartment layout with a the small en trance hall while introducing a larger distribution hall, which is used as a living room (fig. 4.33). All units have a double orientation. Ground floor units do not have direct access to the outdoors and do not have private yards. All units have two balconies: a small one adjacent to the kitchen and a large one connected to one of the bedrooms.

Figure 4.33: Typical unit

The open spaces on the site consist of large landscaped yards which surround the buildings and resemble semi-public parks. There are basically no private or semi-private outdoor spaces on the site. Access to the estate is tortuous, consisting of narrow and mainly pedestrian lanes.


In spite of its unimaginative walkup design which does not really fit in to the traditional envi ronment, Chun Feng Hutong, with its small scale and concern for the preservation of the original site layout, closely resembles the three pilot projects. Since the only lane servicing the project is almost exclusively used by the residents, the environment is quiet and secure.

The fact that the original population is part of a religious minority and is very homogeneous, coupled with the fact that all of the original residents were rehoused on the site, helped to preserve a strong social community. There are very few conflicts among residents, and most say they prefer this new environment to their old ones.

The main problems raised by the residents are related to poor apartment design. Units are too small and to have inconvenient layouts. For example, in many apartments four doors open on the small hall, and the toilet faces the main entrance to the apartment. Many residents have enclosed their balco nies to increase their interior space, altering the designer's Muslim-inspired loggia detail. However, most of these problems were solved in the second phase of the project. There is, however, very little appropriation of the common space for use by individuals.

Table 4.4: Chun Feng Hutong

e) Huai Bai Shu

Huai Bai Shu is a very large estate subdivided into large lots on which half-open clusters of brightly painted walkup apartment buildings are arranged (fig. 4.34).

Figure 4.34: View of the project

General Conditions

Huai Bai Shu is located in the western part of the old Outer city, just within the second ring -road next to the Xuan Wu District Art Garden (fig 4.35). The site spreads on both sides of Huai Bai Shu street, which connects two main north-south arteries. The project is divided into the first phase, south of Huai Bai Shu street, and the second phase to the north, along the ring-road. The site is bounded on the west site by Xi Bian Men Nei street, which is a lively, informal shopping street. Convenient public transport systems are within walking distance, as is Guan An Men hospital (fig. 4.36). There was a primary school on the site that was upgraded during the construction of the project.

Figure 4.35: Project location

Figure 4.36: Situation plan

The project occupies a very large site where about two-thousand households used to live in very poor conditions. It used to be a very congested, one-story neighborhood originally built as a barrack compound for imperial troops. The construction of the new project began in October 1990 and the first residents moved into the first phase on January 20, 1992, to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival in their new house, as promised by the city mayor. The second phase, which includes market-rate apartment buildings, a cluster of high-standard low-rise apartments for central government planning committee administrators, and a large commercial office building along the ring-road on the northern edge of the site, is still under construction.

Ninety percent of the original residents moved back to the site after its renewal. Although a moving-out bonus was offered to those willing to leave, the majority of the people preferred to remain at Huai Bai Shu because of its convenient location. People had to find temporary housing where they spent between eighteen months to two years. Original residents could buy their apartments at a subsi dized price of 308 ¥/m2 if paid all at once. They could also pay in two stages, but the price was then raised to 380 ¥/m2. Only five percent of the residents chose to buy their unit. Market rate units have sold for 6,000 to 7,000 ¥/m2.

Design Features

The new project consists of four- to six-story walkup apartment buildings arranged around large semi-open meandering yards (fig. 4.37). The buildings tend to form a wall around the site, leav ing gaps for the two north-south through-streets. Access to the site is largely uncontrolled and the main lanes are used by vehicular traffic.

Figure 4.37: New project

Approximately one-third of the buildings in the first phase have an east-west orientation. Most buildings are identical, pitching down two stories on one side, according to the angle of the sun. Stair cases are centrally located within the buildings, which provides more light and ventilation to the apart ments. Stairs are lit by light wells and skylights, and give access to two units per landing. All residential buildings have bicycle storage in the basement. There is also a small community center in the basement of one of the buildings. A central gas system was installed but has not yet been connected. All buildings along Huai Bai Shu street have commercial space for daily shopping on the ground floor. All units in the project have a double orientation. In general, apartments have a small entrance hall and a large central room which is used as a living room (fig. 4.38). Kitchens are placed along one facade. Some ground floor units enjoy small private yards surrounded by high walls. Upper floor units have a small balcony connected to the kitchen and a larger one adjacent to one of the bedrooms. Top-floor units have north-facing terraces and extra rooms in the attic, both accessed from the kitchen (fig. 4.39).

There is no great variety in the form of the outdoor spaces on the site and there is no hierarchy of semi-private to semi-public spaces. Most green areas appear unnecessarily large and flow around the buildings, following the circulation paths. A broad strip of unused land separates the buildings and the street edge. Many large trees have been preserved and several new ones were planted, but site furnishing is scarce.

Figure 4.38: Typical floor plans

Figure 4.39: Typical section


Compared to other projects, Huai Bai Shu has few advantages. The preservation of the original community is perhaps the best aspect of the project. Units are more generous than in other low-cost developments, and the central staircases allow for better apartment layout. The small enclosed yards of the ground floor units offer the possibility of being converted into small shops or extra rooms.

The major problems are related to poor building quality, low level of maintenance, and imprac tical design. The first phase of the project had to be completed quickly for political reasons, so the construction quality suffered as a result. The exterior finish is already highly deteriorated and most of the buildings have a decayed aspect. Maintenance has also become a serious problem. Staircases are dark and dank and the light wells dirty and smelly. Access to the underground bicycle storage is inconvenient and it remains practically unused. Most balconies have been enclosed by the residents.

Table 4.5: Huai Bai Shu

The very large scale of the project and its uniform design have resulted in a rather cold and monotonous environment. The general site layout is highly inefficient in terms of land use. The out door spaces are too poorly defined and furnished to provide much support for any outdoor activities. As a result, there is little appropriation of the common space by individual households, and many individual activities such as woodworking or bicycle repair take place in the lanes. People also com plain that socializing is not as spontaneous as in their old environment. Uncontrolled access and inad equate security measures allow many strangers to enter the site. Many bicycle thefts have been reported.

f) De Bao

De Bao is composed of four clusters of tall, white apartment buildings tightly arranged around large communal courtyards (fig. 4. 40).

Figure 4.40: View of one of the yards

General Conditions

De Bao is located outside the old Xi Zhi Men gate in the northwest corner of the Old City and is part of the West City District ( ig. 4.41). The site is adjacent to the Beijing Exhibition Hall, just outside the second ring-road along Xi Zhi Men street. The area is very convenient for shopping and going out, with the Xi Zhi Men transportation hub only three-hundred meters east of the site. The Beijing Zoo is another major bus exchange, two-hundred meters to the west (fig. 4.42). North of the site is a cluster of well-maintained low-rise hotels and restaurants. There is also a small lake and watercourse fifty meters north of the site, but access to the water is difficult. There is a primary school on the eastern side of the site.

The site was previously occupied by old one-story structures built before 1949. Almost one thousand families used to live on the site, some of whom were housed in shacks erected for workers building the Exhibition Hall in the 1960s. There were also some multi-story buildings constructed during the Cultural Revolution following the cost-cutting approach. Housing was, in general, in very poor condition. This part of the city just outside Xi Zhi Men, like most informal settlements outside old city gates, has traditionally been a very poor and marginal neighborhood. As the site lies along a watercourse, the environment is very damp and unhealthy. The West City District government consid ered it to be the site in most urgent need of renewal.

Figure 4.41: Project location

Figure 4.42: Situation plan

The renewal project was designed at the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design and built by the West City District local government. The project consists of six- to seven-story buildings arranged around four large enclosed yards (fig. 4.43). The two southern-most yards along Xi Zhi Men street, occupied by returning residents, contain mostly east-west oriented buildings. The units in the two northern-most yards, which have a predominant north-south orientation and are to be sold on the market, are still under construction. There is a distinctive two-story commercial building at the corner of the southwestern yard. The project also included the construction of a kindergarten in the same yard.

About seventy-five percent of the original residents moved back to De Bao after its regenera tion. These families had to find temporary housing during construction. The developer offered owner ship of a number of existing one-story houses scattered in the southern part of the city to original homeowners in exchange for their previous homes. Returning residents could buy their apartments at a subsidized price of 300 ¥/m2, payable in installments. Very few residents actually bought their units. Five-hundred twenty-two market-rate units were sold to the Ministry of Finance for 3,500 ¥/m 2. A small number of units were offered through public bid and sold for 7,000 ¥/m 2. All the original residents who moved back to the site were housed together in the two southern-most yards. The 228 families who moved out were resettled in En Ji Zhuang, ten kilometer west of De Bao, beyond the third ring-road (fig. 4.41).

Design Features

There are three main housing prototypes on the site. The first one consists of apartment blocks with a staircase accessed from the northern facade servicing two units per landing (fig. 4.44). The second prototype consists of east-west oriented buildings with a sawtoothed facade. Such buildings have single-oriented units, accessed off central double-loaded corridors. The third prototype, located along Xi Zhi Men street, has a ground floor reserved for commercial uses. Residential units on the stories above are accessed through single-loaded corridors along the northern facade, facing the yard. All three prototypes are accessed from the yards. They have sloped roofs which provide extra living space in a loft for units on the top floor. In general, there is no distinction in design between the first-floor units and those above. The ground floor in all buildings is raised half a story above ground level so the units have no direct connection to the outdoors. Small studios are provided in the basement for temporary housing, storage, or commercial uses. Bicycle storage rooms are also found there.

The single-oriented units are deep and narrow, with a polygonal living room along the external facade. Kitchens, found on the peripheral facade, are lit and ventilated with shared light wells. In the double-oriented units, main rooms generally face toward the yard, and have a balcony, enclosed as part of the initial design. A large central hall is used as a living room.

Figure 4.43: New project

Figure 4.44: Typical double-oriented unit

Most outdoor spaces in the new project consist of large yards offering a great diversity of textures and forms and allowing for a wide range of activities. Greenery is confined to well-defined central areas raised above ground level and bordered by masonry retaining walls on which people can sit comfortably. Storage of personal items in the yards is forbidden. The general project layout, with as many as 350 units overlooking the yards, allows for good surveillance. Circulation lanes run along the peripheral facade of the clusters and are used mainly by local traffic. The yards themselves are pedes trian and through-traffic is limited to tricycle cart vendors, taxis, and emergency vehicles.

Table 4.6: De Bao


One of the positive aspects of this project is the partial relocation of the original population and the grouping of returning residents together in the same clusters. This allowed for the continuation of long-established social interactions, while giving the developer the opportunity to save on expenses by providing returning residents with units of lower standards than the market-rate units. The project layout is interesting and facilitates surveillance. The yards are well isolated from the busy street, so children can play outside safely. However, the absence of any transition from public to more private spaces has prevented people from conducting private activities in the outdoors.

The greatest dissatisfaction expressed by the residents regarding building design was with the east-west oriented buildings, especially with those with the sawtoothed layout. Units were found to be too deep and narrow, and the polygonal main room inconvenient. The one-room units intended for young newly-wed couples were also found to be too small. The shared light wells were greatly disliked because they do not provide adequate light and ventilation and tend to be dirty, smelly and noisy. Another problem is that the absence of direct access to the outdoors by ground floor units hinders their conversion into small private businesses, although a few examples of such conversions were encoun tered. The absence of separation of public and private outdoor spaces also limited the appropriation of the space by individual residents. In the shared facilities, one problem is the storage of bicycles and other large items in the basements. Access to the storage rooms is by a steep and narrow ramp. Only the most expensive bicycles are kept there, while the others are left in the yards.

Great dissatisfaction also arose from the relocation project. En Ji Zhuang consists of a mixture of low-rise, multi-story and high-rise buildings. Relocation housing for residents from inner-city rede velopment sites is confined to low-standard high-rises. Building number thirty-seven, which is a poorly serviced sixteen-story structure, is occupied by people from De Bao (fig. 4.45). Electricity and eleva tor services are unreliable and many people, especially the elderly, have been injured falling down the unlit stairway. Thefts and burglaries have occurred to such an extent that ground floor units have been abandoned and left to be vandalized. En Ji Zhuang has serious problems due not only to its poor management but also to its inconvenient location, far from shopping and basic services.

Figure 4.45: View of building no 37 at En Ji Zhuang

g) Hu Bei Kou

Hu Bei Kou is a large estate subdivided into well-planted lots where high-standard apartment buildings are arranged in regular rows (fig. 4.46).

Figure 4.46: View of Hu Bei Kou

General Conditions

Hu Bei Kou is located in the northeast corner of the old Outer City, just south of the second ring-road in the Chong Wen District (fig. 4.47). The site used to be a typical neighborhood of densely -built one-story courtyard houses. There is an extremely lively flower and vegetable market on Dong Hua Shi street, running on the southern edge of the site. The market will be relocated to another part of the city after completion of the project. More established shops and restaurants are just east of the project on Bai Qiao street. Public transportation is convenient in the area. The Jian Guo Men financial district and the Beijing railway station are in the vicinity (fig. 4.48).

The project was designed by Zhong Jing architects and developed by the Beijing Real Estate Development and Management Corporation. It was divided in two phases: the first one, on the eastern side of the site is almost completed and is partially occupied, while the second part to the west is still under construction. The project consists of four- to six-story walkup apartment buildings arranged in regular rows with north-south orientation on four landscaped parcels (fig. 4.49). The southeastern corner of the site is occupied by a large commercial complex. A kindergarten was built on the site as part of the project.

None of the original residents were allowed to move back to the site after its regeneration. Most were resettled in Nan Mo Fang, a large housing estate ten kilometers to the southeast of the site. Some households were also relocated to Xi Luo Fang, to the south of the old city. All apartments built on the site were sold at market price to wealthy work units, such as the Food and Oil Import-Export Company and the Foreign Commerce and Administration Corporation. Apartments were bought on a 6,000 ¥/m 2 basis. Private individuals, even those with sufficient funds, have not been allowed to buy the apart ments.

Figure 4.47: Projects Location

Figure 4.48: Situation plan

Design Features

There is only one housing prototype modeled after Western condominiums. Apartments are large and comfortable and are accessed from the north side through stairways servicing two units per landing (fig. 4.50). Entryways are electrically locked and equipped with intercoms. Kitchens are located on the north side and have small adjacent balconies. Each unit has an enclosed solarium-style balcony with a sliding door accessed from the living room. Top-floor units enjoy an extra room in the attic and a roof terrace.

Figure 4.49: New project

Figure 4.50: Typical floor plan

The outdoor spaces on the site consist of open spaces between two rows of buildings. Greenery is lush, site furnishings are ample and maintenance is good. There is only one main access to the site, and a gate with security guards ensures the residents' safety.


Hu Bei Kou enjoys a prestigious reputation due to its high quality in construction and design and the relatively large size of the apartments. Still, most families have converted two units into a larger one and actually occupy an entire floor. There is no apparent appropriation of the common space by individual households, which can be explained by the size of individual units and the lifestyle of the residents. Most of the new residents are young professionals who lead busy lives. They spend relatively little time at home and do not socialize with their neighbors. The use of the streets on the site is restricted to local residents, but since traffic is rather light, they are mainly used by local children to play.

Table 4.7: Hu Bei Kou

However, many new residents feel that Hu Bei Kou does not live up to its prestigious reputa tion. Interior finishing is of an average level, with regular kitchen cabinets and sinks, exposed pipes, and standard steel sash windows. Most residents had their window frames replaced by high quality aluminum ones and air conditioning systems installed as soon as they moved in.

The total relocation of the original residents can be viewed as one of the major shortcomings of the project. Residents from Hu Bei Kou at Nan Mo Fang occupy six-story walkup apartment buildings arranged around large, open spaces, which are still to be landscaped. Some residents admit feeling isolated there not only because they are so far from the city, but also because they are scattered in different buildings and have lost contact with their old neighbors. In general, security is bad on the site and all units have security doors. Although Nan Mo Fang is far from the city center, transportation is very convenient and a single bus route reaches it in twenty minutes.

The relocation process was further complicated by problems related to the transfer of hukou. Due to long administrative procedures, the hukou of the residents has not yet been transferred to their new place of residence. Original residents still have to go to Hu Bei Kou to get their gas rations and to bring their children to school (the new kindergarten has temporarily been converted into a primary school to accommodate the children of the original residents). This problem is also faced by the new residents of Hu Bei Kou, whose children must attend their old schools for another two years.

h) Tian Ning Si

Tian Ning Si is a very large estate fragmented into a number of lots which have been redevel oped over the years and consist of various housing prototypes (fig. 4.51).

Figure 4.51: View of the most recent section of Tian Ning Si

General Conditions

Tian Ning Si is located outside the old city, west of the second ring-road, in the Xuan Wu District (fig. 4.52). Guan An Men Wai boulevard, just south of the site, offers convenient shopping and transportation (fig. 4.53). The historical Tian Ning Si temple, an ancient pagoda now off limits within a factory compound, stands at the north edge of the site. The Guan An Men Hospital is within walking distance. The site was previously occupied by old one-story housing of an informal sort.

Figure 4.52: Project location

Figure 4.53: Situation plan

The project was developed by the same people who built Hu Bei Kou. It consists of six-story walkup apartment buildings arranged in north-south oriented rows on large open spaces (fig. 4.54). Of all the projects surveyed, this is the least completed. Portion of the old neighborhood still have to be demolished. Three of the recently completed buildings in the eastern part of the site are occupied by original residents who were allowed to return. One of these buildings has retail space built onto the first floor. The western part of the project is occupied by high-standard apartment buildings which were built a few years ago and put up for sale. A large commercial building is under construction in the southeastern corner of the site, on Guan An Men Wai Street. Low-rise buildings and green space are planned for the area surrounding the temple to the north.

Residents who moved back to the site had to find temporary housing for themselves for a period of thirty months3. People who could not be accommodated back on the site were relocated in Wu Li Dian, about twenty kilometers west of Tian Ning Si, near the famous Marco Polo bridge (fig. 4.55).

Figure 4.54: New project

Figure 4. 55: View of the Wu Li Dian relocation project

Figure 4.56: Typical floor plans

Design Features

Housing prototypes on the site are rather conventional. In the lower standard section reserved for returning residents, buildings are entered from either the southern or northern side, although their interior layout remains otherwise the same (fig. 4.56). All units enjoy cross-ventilation and kitchens have small adjacent balconies. Rooms in general are rather small. Top-floor units have extra living space in the attic. In general, construction quality is good.

Ground coverage is very high in this project and open spaces are limited to layers of greenery between the buildings. There is no hierarchy of outdoor spaces and no form of enclosure which would have promoted their use. At the time of the visit, site work and roads were largely unfinished and vegetation was scarce. The site is located along two main arteries from where it is accessed at many points.

Table 4.8: Tian Ning Si


The low level of completion of the project complicates its evaluation. The grouping of all returning residents together in the same section can be considered a positive aspect of the project, essential for the preservation of the community. The future integration of the pagoda temple, which will be surrounded by gardens, will also bring more life to the project.

The main problems identified at Tian Ning Si are related to its large scale and to the limited amount of people allowed to move back to the site. The lack of well-structured outdoor spaces was also felt to be a negative aspect. Proximity to the second ring-road make the area noisy and unsafe.

Relocation at Wu Li Dian was a major problem, especially because of its location at such a large distance from the city center. Wu Li Dian was developed to rehouse residents from a number of inner-city renewal projects. It consists of a typical mass housing estate with rows of identical slab apartment buildings. Community and public services are scarce, especially in the administrative realm. There is no police station and only one neighborhood committee for nine-thousand households. The surrounding town has no major market, so an informal one has sprung up along the central street of the housing estate, which has brought strangers to the site. Security is poor and bicycle thefts are frequent.

Table 4 4.9 summarizes the information about the case studies. After the completion of the project survey, to get more representative information and insights regarding the recent trends in the imple mentation of regeneration projects in Beijing, the author also visited over forty other housing projects in or around the old city. Such projects are illustrated in Appendix II. They include projects built before the implementation of the renewal program, as well as recent projects, most of which are still in con struction. An analysis of the findings from the case studies and the diverse project visited is provided in the following chapter.

Table 4 4.9: Cumulative table

1 Most of the Figures have been collected during the desktop survey and have not all been verified on the actual plans. They should thus be considered with caution.

2 One means by which residents' mobility can be increased within a city is through house exchange, a system which is gaining popularity in China today. House exchange is generally performed by home-owners who are unsatisfied with the location of their dwelling and who find another household willing to exchange dwelling units with them. Ownership certificates and hukouare transferred to regulate this transaction.

3 The proportion of original residents allowed to return to the site after its regeneration could not be determined and is assumed to be about 30%.

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