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Beijing's Old City Disappearing Rapidly


The original style of old Beijing is disappearing rapidly with the traditional buildings being replaced by modern architecture and structures, warned Mao Qizhi, vice president of Tsinghua University' School of Architecture at a forum held Monday on Beijing's environment and the construction of a city fit to live in. Mao strongly criticized the excessive construction of golf courses and villas in Beijing. According to him, there were currently over 300 villa projects in the city, and statistics show there are about 100 golf courses in the city. Images taken by satellite identify that many golf courses had been built on public green spaces and farmlands. "Large areas of the city's public green spaces have been occupied serving the interests of only a small group of people and organizations. We should be alert to such a phenomenon," said Mao. The preservation of Beijing as a historical and cultural city has always been a focus of public interest. According to Mao, of the total 62.5-sq-km old city area, the neighborhoods of Siheyuan -- quadrangles -- and a mix of modern and old styles account for only 43.7 percent, the area now completely overtaken by modern architecture accounts for 36.67 percent, and the remaining 19.63 percent has turned into roads and modern squares. Currently city planning and the protection of old areas were inadequate. In recent years, during the renovation of dangerous and historic properties, many "old houses" which should have been preserved were demolished, said Mao. Mao pointed out that the main conflict facing the proposed current changes in Beijing was still the difficulties of development in central urban areas. Many locations still followed the large-scale construction format which wasn't in accordance with Beijing's general city planning. It's reported that the scale of house construction in Beijing reached 500 million square meters last year, an increase of 150 million square meters compared with the 2000 figure, and 80 percent of the new homes have been concentrated in the central area or surrounding districts. If development continues at current rates, by 2010 the total area of housing is expected to reach 650 million square meters. This will lead to the expansion of the city's central area and run counter to the wishes of people for a better living environment.

(Source:China.org.cn, 2006-09-20)