Baitasi Remade: second site visit

Selection of site: a rectangular piece of land, currently a three storey building.

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How B2 looks like from the outside (highlighted in magenta in the first picture):

One of the courtyards has just started demolition. I felt that it was almost wasteful that all the materials are just being thrown away – the doors, windows, mirrors represented a piece of life story in the hutong.

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However, it also made me question myself whether that was being unnecessarily nostalgic. What is actually good for the area? Whose needs are we catering to? With the functions of the 12 courtyards being fixed by the organisers, it makes me wonder how the decisions were reached. Talking through the streets and speaking to the residents, it became slowly clearer to me that the residents are aware neither of the competition or the events that have taken place previously. It is interesting to me that the competition and the designs that are produced will not be serving the needs of the immediate community but answers on the level of the city, a hypothetical need for future art-related spaces and for the preservation of historical buildings, techniques and streetscape. It raises the question whether these two needs are necessarily mutually exclusive and whether there are opportunities for them to be combined.

Walking around the site, I wandered into a tiny library and was met with a friendly librarian. During our chat, she shared that the library was set up by the local authorities and provides free books for the community. People living in the area are free to visit, borrow books and sit down to have tea. Many young children visit the library because it is a quiet space to read and study. at times, the library also becomes an event space for talks on Chinese medicine for example. She also shared that because the library is very small space, residents who visit have suggested that it would be good to have larger spaces for larger gatherings and also possible open spaces for dancing etc. It would be interesting to see whether there are opportunities to combine these elements into the design of the new building.