Diploma 2016 - "Internal capacity" by Xiaoyu Xu

Strategies to Preserve and Renew a threatened neighborhood in the old city of Beijing


This project joins the discussion of renewing the old city neighborhoods in Beijing, proposing strategies to make the traditional low-rise courtyard fabric into an ideal future habitat for citizens. Instead of reducing the population of these areas which is the common solution now, the project respects the density and challenge the potential within the self-evolving urban network.

The first part of the project is studying the past, the evolution, and the current need of the hutong and siheyuan urban fabric. Massive urbanization, poor living conditions, lack of infrastructure, dislocation of indigenous residents, slumification and gentrification are key issues. Examples of courtyards together with interviews with their dwellers are documented.

The site- Liuxuelu neighborhood-is an open one, since it is not listed as a preserved area, and is in urgent need of transformation. As it has a tricky location on the central axis, the municipality is planning to develop it as a serving area to a theatre district nearby. Lack of infrastructure and public facilities, decreasing local culture, influx of migrants, bad building quality make it a problematic area.  however, the rich urban fabric with its own history and culture, the dynamic of the mixture of locals and migrant families, the harmony of human and nature, the empathy and intimacy of the buildings, are all precious values that should not be removed during urban developments.

Based on the studies, the goal of the project is to preserve qualities and challenge density. the project takes a soft approach within an urban planning framework. Interventions of different scales and programs are proposed, in order to enhance the lost as well as existing qualities.the interventions work as strategies or principles which indicate procedures and scenarios rather than precise outcome. The intervention strategies can be categorized  into  three types according to how they influence density: to add, to reduce,and to maintain. Different scales,actors,time of interventions work as integral parts of a system. Qualities are gained by removing and transforming objects precisely. Common living and shared facilities are encouraged. Nature is prioritized. It can be seen as a guidance for the municipality, developers, local communities, and individuals, to achieve a balanced habitat enabling privacy, accessibility, mobility, publicity and dignity.

8 examples are shown to form a vision of a future habitat which is full of life, sociality and surprises.. The examples are highlighted by a tower complex which reinterprets the traditional esthetics and elements, extend living spaces of neighbors and strangers, and refresh the area as a landmark and lively place.

Keywords:  hutong,siheyuan,density , urban fabric, neighborhood,vertical


Illustration of intervention strategies including transformation, new typologies, and public programs.




 Model study of traditional courtyard space




View of the exhibition


1:100 model of the residential tower complex as reinterpretation of traditional courtyard house with collective lifestyle


Collage showing the density challenge of the old city



Transformation of courtyard house from single-family house to multi-family house with extensions


Conceptual sketch of the tower complex


 Interior of a common level of the tower complex



Section of the tower complex composed of small duplex apartments- 4 apartments sharing one common space with kitchen, semi-outdoor ground and bathrooms.