July 01, 2009
Kashgar's Wrecking Ball
As they say in China you have to tear down the old to build the new often with good results all 'round. But sometimes the very essence of a place is lost in the process. This writer was saddened by the crass demolition and rebuild of the ancient shopping area south of Qian Men gate in Beijing. An interesting, if dilapidated, collection of buildings and narrow alleys was replaced with a garish Hong Kong meets Hollywood fakery that destroyed all its original charm.
Kashgar is busy redeveloping its old city - a huge tangle of old buildings and alleys built around extended family homes connected to shops and businesses organized around central courtyards, an urban form as old as Eurasia itself - into modern highrise blocks with plumbing and electricity for all. Beijing wants no repeat of last year's Sichuan earthquake catastrophe with its collapsed buildings and massive fatalities. An added feature -- whereas before you had to meander a block to find a certain shop, the new developments will feature streetside shops and markets....
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