Anamnesis

ænæmˈniːsɪs
recollection, especially of a supposed previous existence.

Today's Chinese cities were borne from a blank page, built upon the gray rubble and flattened mountains of what came before. Their form is pervasive and has quickly become familiar, made up of repetitive housing bars contained within gated megablocks, bracketed by outward-facing services and divided into neat grids by wide, impassable boulevards.

In its destructive emergence, this kind of city has left resilient entities in its wake, particularly the endangered urban villages which survive to this day in a changing environment despite overwhelming odds. Their history, social structure and hierarchical organization of appropriable open spaces are infinitely more successful than the ill-used public spaces, social segregation and lack of memory that plague the new city.

Taking inspiration from the adaptability and organization of open, social spaces within Beijing's urban villages, the Anamnesis project is a proposal for a phased, gradual rebuilding of the neighborhood of Huilongguan in northwestern Beijing. Within the next twenty years, as the existing blocks reach the end of their lifecycle and an increasing number of rural migrants enter the city, it will be important to rebuild methodically, without succumbing to the amnesic tabula rasa.

The temporal masterplan is based on the geometry of the existing urban fabric and defines potentials for both the rebuilding of more connected and mixed-use residential complexes, as well as more appropriate open spaces to encourage social cohesion. At a larger scale, the city's mobility will be streamlined through the bundling of new transportation infrastructure which will connect to the new constructions throughout Huilongguan. Tram lines, car-pooling centers and a new emphasis on smaller-scale, short-distance vehicles will drastically improve the congested conditions of present-day Huilongguan, whilst encouraging social interaction within the mobility-spaces of the city.

This important social life is fully integrated into the hierarchical organization of open spaces within the new residential compounds, materialized as a three-dimensional superimposition of quieter, neighborly meeting places, commercial streets and hyper-urban, neon-lit “Mediapoleis” and bridges. By encouraging social cohesion, the integration of new classes of population into the city of Beijing will be facilitated, and may ultimately challenge the inherent social disparities present in Chinese society.

In its reconstruction effort, the project acknowledges and integrates the fact that the city cannot be planned simply as a grid of zones in black and white upon a blank page. By weaving both potentials and the existing fabric into its strategy, phasing will continuously express an evolving urban entity rather than an instantaneous city. Beyond this regeneration of interstitial open spaces and social connectors, by growing from an existing context over time, a new temporality will emerge. As the old, the new and the temporary merge together in the massive rebuilding effort, time will once again be present within the new urban fabric, answering the people's need for memory; the city will become anamnesic.

 

 

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