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Farewell to aged abodes

MAY . 25 2011

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Peking University, May 22, 2011: Students passed by the Triangle at a fast pace as usual. Wearing a mask, Xu Jun, a sophomore from the School of Physics frowned and said, “it is really dusty around here; I don’t want to eat sand every time I pass by.” The buildings No. 16 - 18 have been knocked down, and only rubbles are left. The workers were still busily removing the construction wastes.



(File photo/DEAB)



(File photo/zhuxl)



Demolition process   

The former buildings No. 16, 17, and 18, built in the 1950s, were tube-shaped apartments in antique style. They used to be an important part of the scenery around the South Gate of PKU. The three buildings together with their enclosures formed a half-encircled separate architectural complex opening to the east. In their east is Graduate School of Education’s building completed in 2009, in their west Building No. 28 and the Triangle, and in their north the Peking University Hall.


A new student center will take the place of the three buildings. This new multifunction center will be a combination for student activities, service, and management, taking up some 6,000 square meters.


The removing of plants and other properties in this area started on March 28, and the demolition of the buildings commenced on May 7. According to Mo Yuanbin, director of the PKU Office of Construction, the whole demolition process should end around May 18. As to when the new student center will start to be built, Mo was not sure because the construction company was to be determined through bidding.


The Beijing News has covered the demolition, considering it as destruction of PKU’s architectural style and humanistic atmosphere. In December 2006, Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage passed the General Plan for the Protection of Buildings and Cultural Relics around Weiming Lake and Yanyuan Garden Areas. Buildings No. 16 - 18 were not on the preservation list; however, many teachers and students still have feelings for these buildings. Wang Ziqian, a freshman from the Law School said, “the reconstruction project will modernize the campus at the cost of breaking the overall architectural style in the South Gate area.”


Peking University is located in the former Royal Garden area; to be in harmony with the ancient architectural style, new buildings at PKU should been built under height limits from three to five floors. Mo said the structure of the new student center will resemble Graduate School of Education’s building, with five floors in the middle part and three floors in both wings. The gardening of this area will remain basically the same. The Triangle will not be influenced by the reconstruction: the bulletin boards, road-width and gardening will remain unchanged.


Discussions before demolition   

“Since 2007, there has been a plan about the demolition of these old buildings and turning them into classroom buildings and student centers,” said Yang Yueping, deputy director of the PKU Security Department.
Building No. 16 - 18 used to be dormitories for the staff and were later turned into apartments for young teachers. The College of Engineering later moved into these buildings due to their shortage of offices.


“When these buildings were built in 1952, we thought they would only be used for 10-20 years; but by next year it will have been used for 60 years,” said Xiao Dongfa, a specialist in Peking University’s history. The old buildings near the South Gate were built under not-so-strict standards and have been strengthened and mended several times; now it is a time to build some new ones. According to Xiao, some national cultural heritages around the Weiming Lake should be well-protected, including some old buildings which date back to the Yenching University period; however, it is another case with Buildings No. 16 - 18 because they are no longer in good conditions.


Although the demolition was planned a long time ago, funds are needed for the plan to be carried out. In May 2010, Suzhou New Sun Property Company donated 100 million yuan to Peking University to build a new student center. At the donation ceremony, President Zhou Qifeng said “the new student center will become one of the landmarks on campus together with the Peking University Hall, the Triangle and Yannan Garden.” Zhou’s speech can be taken as a hint to the location of the new student center — near the Triangle area.


The demolition is also related to the fact that there are few places for student societies’ activities. Many societies need fixed locations to host their activities, and due to a lack of space and money, many student societies had to crowd in the basement of Classroom Building No. 2. However, these societies lost their limited activity space because of the reconstruction of Classroom Building No. 2 carried out by the Security Department from early April to the middle of May.


“The demolition or reconstruction is definitely good news to the student societies,” said Hou Yunyun, a freshman from the Guanghua School of Management. According to Hou, the reconstruction will not only solve the space problem, but also can strengthen the tie between students and student societies as well as cultivating the student society culture. Meanwhile, many students have seen the reconstruction’s potential influence on the classroom resources for self-study. Zhang Yiding, a junior student from the College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering said, “providing student societies with places for activities will reduce their propensities to take up vacant classrooms for their own activities, therefore providing more space for the students’ self-study.”


"Just to move"

After reconstruction plan of buildings No. 16 - 18 was determined, some offices of the College of Engineering temporarily moved to the Audio-Visual Education Buiding. Professor Huang Kefu, deputy dean of the College of Engineering said, “We knew the reconstruction plan long time ago. But it is in early April that we knew detailed information from a notice issued by the Office of Real Estate.” When asked about the office environment comparing with the previous, Professor Huang pointed to the narrow space and smiled: “Just as what you see.” The college doesn’t have its own official building currently. The office staff are scattered in the Yannan Garden No. 60, the Mechanics Building, the Founder Building and the current Audio-visual Education Building. “We will move into a new building in the future.” Professor Huang said that the new building for the College of Engineering was under construction situated in the Yandong Garden, near the School of Physics.


The College of Engineering is not alone facing the moving situation. An M&G Chenguang stationer moved to the bookstore opposite on April 20. It is likely that Chenguang would stay there from now on. The staff said that the business was not running very well. The location of the store is not quite good compared with the previous location. “We have no choice… Just to move.”


Student societies’ battle field of publicity moves  

The Triangle in the north of the Building No. 16 is of great significance to PKU student societies and associations. The intensive flows of people make it an ideal place for recruitment, publicity, tickets distribution and so on. However, the recent reconstructoin project of the buildings No. 16 - 18 keeps the publicity activities away from the Triangle. An article entitled “A Notice of Temporary stands during the reconstruction of the Buildings No. 16 - 18” was delivered by university officials on May 9. Student societies and associations can carry out activities in the west of the Boshi Supermarket, the north of Building No. 18 and the west of Graduate School of Education. Whether the reconstruction has any influence on the publicity activities of the associations? President of the Loving Heart Society thought that it didn’t have any effect on them. The recent activities of "Care for the Disabled" were moved to the west of the Boshi Supermarket. Though people flow was not as intensive as in the Triangle, it didn’t matter too much.


Ma Jun, who is responsible for the promotion of the recent activity PKU Etiquette Talent Competition, said: “The promotion activity began on the first day of the demolition. The stands could only be set in the west of Nongyuan, which was not as noticeable as before.” Hip-hop Society President Tang Yiyue also said that the project influenced the environment of the Triangle and the time that students stayed was shorter. Thanks to the great success of the Special Show last year, the distribution of the tickets was not affected. Overall, the reconstruction didn’t influence too much on student societies’ promotional efforts. Apart from the decrease in people flow and difficulties in the use of instruments, student societies can carry out activities effectively. 


Construction project in the future  

There have been a number of reconstruction projects in recent years at Peking University. The demolition and construction of Peking University Hospital, the conversion of the Quanzhai Building to International Mathematics Research Center, the construction of buildings for humanities and social sciences schools and departments near Weiming Lake.


An article titled “PKU Future Construction Plans” was widely shared by many students on the online social network Renren.com (now the article has been deleted by the blogger). The blog listed some projects of future construction, which included the underground passage from the East Gate to the School of Physics, reconstruction of some buildings near the South Gate into the New Building for the School of Journalism and Communication; and the demolition of the Building No. 28. Director of Office of Construction made a vague response to this. He mentioned that some of the projects were truly in the future plans of campus construction. These projects were proposed to university administrative leaders by PKU Commission of Campus Planning after thorough analysis. They are now still under consideration.


"Planning and construction are two things. Capital operation is required," Deputy Director Yang thought that the planning and construction of PKU campus is closely related to funding and the needs of the universitythe students. The construction land is quite tight these years. Nevertheless, buildings for teaching, administrative and research uses are in an increasing demand. Many factors like the expansion of enrollment and the development of subjects contribute to the rise in campus construction projects.



Extended Reading:

Removal of tube-shaped buildings arouses debate

TRIANGLE the immortal



Reported by: Chen Ling, Cao Sen, Wu Jing, and Guo Xiao

Written by: Su Dongrui and Chen Wei

Edited by: Zhang Chunlan

Source: JCP News