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Keeping alive architectural memories vital

Updated:2016-01-04 07:56
( China Daily)

THE RECENT CENTRAL URBAN WORK CONFERENCE, the country's highest-level urban planning meeting, asked cities to maintain their traditional traits when it comes to architecture and cultural diversity. This is a welcome move because traditional buildings are living memories of a city, says Dai Rongli, a researcher at Beijing Society for Philosophy of Nature, Science and Technology, in an article in People's Daily:

All modern cities look alike. All of them have similar buildings with glass facades and look more like concrete jungles, which obscure our memories of the past. We have realized the importance of preserving old buildings to look back proudly at our culture, but sadly not many such structures are left. Our traditional buildings have been demolished, old communities have disappeared and our traditional culture is nowhere to be seen.

Old buildings are living histories. Every age has its characteristic buildings and they tell us how people lived in that age. In other words, old buildings are live museums where people can temporarily escape from the vagaries of today's fast-paced life.

Many cities in China have such attributes. In Beijing, you can feel the contrast between the ancient imperial and civilian life by walking the streets beside the Palace Museum. In Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, you can hear the stories of the city's prosperous families by just touching a stone in a building. And in Pingyao, Shanxi province, you can read how commerce flourished on the streets. Had all these old buildings been destroyed, their stories would have disappeared too.

It is important to remember that "old" does not necessarily mean "outdated". Instead, old buildings can teach architects and engineers how to design new structures.

That's why the call of the Central Urban Work Conference is comforting. The country's top leadership has realized the importance of protecting old buildings in cities and urged all local governments to protect them. The entire country should heed the call.

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