Who will Save the Heritage Buildings in Shanghai?
I recently read this article about architect Ruan Yisan trying to save architectural heritage in China. Whenever I read something like this, either about someone trying to save an old building or demolishing of buildings by developers to make room for a high rise shopping centre or an office/residential complex, particularly in Shanghai, I think of similarities with my hometown Karachi. However, billboards and advertisements on beautiful heritage buildings flouting chicken legs or burger or a cup of coffee is no less offensive an act. Strict laws need to be put in place to discourage them as defacing such public buildings so blatantly is no small crime.
Since the economic reforms of the late 1970s, sweeping modernization has bulldozed much of China's historic architectures. In the 1990s Shanghai earned the dubious honor of having the highest concentration of construction cranes in the world, and the World Bank predicts that from now until 2015 half the world's new building construction will take place in China.
In Shanghai, 12 conservation districts have been designated but according to Ruan these areas have favored high quality villas ahead of the more historically important longtangs typical of everyday life.
"I have long argued that longtangs reflect Shanghai vernacular culture, but for so many years we had no longtang protection zone," he said. Petitions made headlines recently as a result of a three-month research project led by Ruan at the end of 2008. With a 173 strong research team, he fine-combed the non-listed areas in Shanghai for more architectural treasures.
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Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan