Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dalian Notes II – Coming Down Alert

Wandering around I’ve taken to using this blog to note examples of perfectly fine old buildings in China that are being demolished for vague reasons (see previous Beijing Coming Down alert). This time it’s Dalian.

Dalian’s Harbin Jie was a fine example of old housing in the European colonial style with a few Russian twists as befits the city’s history. However, about a dozen residences on Harbin Jie are slated to go under the hammers – and have already been gutted and partially demolished – to make way for a primary school. Not that I don’t want to see modern new primary schools built – but does it have to be on top of otherwise fine structures already existing?

What makes the destruction of Harbin Jie especially sad is that the old argument (heard so often in Beijing and Shanghai) that the old properties are no longer liveable or suitable for refurbishment is obviously tosh in this case. Along the street several old buildings have indeed been excellently refurbished and are very attractive and clearly make their house proud owners good homes. An examination of the other buildings indicated to me that the structures themselves were sound – walls, window frames, chimneys etc – though the interiors had suffered due to overcrowding. Still, nothing that couldn’t be sorted with a little time and investment.

And so the pictures you see here – snapshots of a ghost street that within months if not weeks will be gone forever. Among Chinese cities Harbin has an almost unique architectural heritage of Russian style colonial buildings that (when they are grand buildings) the city is keen to promote to tourists. However, as is sadly usually the case across the country when it comes to ordinary dwellings, the places where people lived as opposed to banks, hotels and government offices, they are deemed expendable.

So, as it’s Harbin, Spokojnoj Nochi Harbin Jie.

Dalian Notes I - China's Best Letter Boxes

Dalian Notes III – A Centenary of Trams

Dalian Notes IV - The Yamato Hotel Centenary


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