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The aesthetics of city-scale preservation policy in Beijing

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Chinese cities today represent a historically important case of the relation between city-scale preservation policy and urban design, and the role they play in the rapid transformation of urban environments. This article reviews Beijing's preservation and urban design policies as they existed in 1990, and as they evolved and responded over the following fifteen years of radical change. Beijing's master plan in the 1990s ambitiously attempted to define the preservation-worthy image of the entire old city, but did so in narrowly picturesque terms. The practice of 'protecting' designated historic structures by clearing the space around them, and the dependence on a totalizing view-from-on-high to define Beijing's overall characteristic form (as opposed to an experience of the city from its myriad public and private spaces), produced a city-wide preservation policy that was particularly handicapped in its ability to accommodate change.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02665430701213531

Affiliations: Department of Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-5740, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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