written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Everyday I pass this long gate of rusted panels. Here and there are openings in the panels where bikes with massive loads cart away recyclable materials and garbage.

Inside the is a the remains of a hutong, a traditional Beijing alley. I have written about hutongs before as they are infamously disappearing around town for several reasons, most of which involve their replacement with new skyrise developments, but also many are condemned as unlivable.

Hutongs have been used in Beijing for centuries. The narrow alleys (hutongs) and siheyuan courtyards not only been a solution for compact urban living, but as a structure they keep cool in the hot summers and in the spring and winter protect against the harsh winds and sandstorms.

As far as the media is concerned, their removal is mostly accepted with bittersweetness. Many lack plumbing and have ancient standards, but inevitably their removal is the erasure of Beijing's cultural vernacular architecture, which is left to skyrises and the occasional imperial palaces.

Today I walked around the old walls of the former hutong situated opposite my apartment block and finally went inside to check it out. I found a wasteland of rubble and garbage. And people still living amoungst this slow and ongoing demolition. Indeed, it appears as if many of the residents are employed or at least are responsible for clearing out the garbage. There no professional looking hulling trucks. I see only bikes carting away broken slats of sheet rock and other detrital materials. Here are the pictures.

Garbage strewn path, walking on the outside of the hutong wall.
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My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson