Inside

Master Interior Architecture

Sisi Li – Graduation project 15/16

REACTIVATE THE HUTONG

A strategy to save a fragile social housing typology in Beijing

I became interested in the Chinese Hutong due to a personal experience of getting lost in a modern residential Hutong district in Beijing. I did not like the atmosphere with dark alleys and high grey walls, and started to rethink the typology of the Hutong. Through my observations and studies I found out that for me the most attractive aspect of the Hutong district is the diversity of its residents. In the 1950’s, an increasing number of people moved to Beijing and the government transformed some private courtyard buildings into social housing for low-income families, like craftsmen or service personnel. They created a strong social network and co-living and working system inside the Hutong area.

However, the government gradually noticed in the last decade that the original Hutong has major potential value, among others as a tourist attraction. Therefore the Hutongs were transformed into attractive locations at the cost of their social housing. As I consider this a great loss, I intend to reactivate the social housing typology of the Hutong and help the original residents to stay. First of all I want to create economic value by employing the skills of the people who live there. By adding workshops in the craftsmen’s living spaces, tourists might watch and learn how traditional products are being made. The numerous residents who offer services to others – like the gardener, cleaning lady and repairman – instead of waiting a call from their neighbors to get a job, I would like to link them with a shop where they can show their horticultural skills and present various products, creating a win – win economy for all involved. Overall it’s my ambition to offer different strategies to the local residents. Through adding, linking, opening, densifying their living spaces and maximizing the spatial qualities, I hope to reactivate the Hutong from the inside.

All images @INSIDE & Sisi Li

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