The commercial preservation of Chinese heritage: a poisoned panacea for city modernisation

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In China the entertainment and tourism industry, united to heritage preservation, offers today an unmissable opportunity to increase the living standard of cities. To this end a systematic use of the demolition and reconstruction of vast historical areas became both the keystone of a development policy and the paradigm of a rudimentary culture of conservation at political and technical level. This paper proposes a reflection on the multiple causes of this phenomenon, from the most obvious (the strength of the housing market, the collusion between private and public interests) to the less evident: the opaqueness of land market, the subordination to political power, the conceptualization of heritage in the Chinese tradition. To properly focus on the operational context of the demolition and reconstruction works in historic districts, the text compares some relevant aspects of the political system, the existing legislative framework and the technical tools adopted. Also, with reference to some significant operations the paper highlights how the demolition remains totally controlled by the real estate market and needs to be rethought as a political tool in order to target effective strategies of rehabilitation. In conclusion, the text highlights as in the process of preservation the field of action of the planners is extremely reduced, as operating within public boards strongly affected by a marked oriented policy and scarcely interacting with stakeholders external to the institutional power.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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