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March 10, 2018

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Micro-revamping: a low-key way to give communities a makeover

SHANGHAI’S planning authority is “micro-revamping” — doing subtle, low-key renovations — in several old communities to improve living standards while retaining the traditional layout and lifestyle of the city’s shikumen (stone-gated) lane neighborhoods.

Instead of demolishing and rebuilding methods, micro-revamping aims to revitalize the old communities, mostly built around the 1980s, with subtle renovations and innovative ideas.

The planning authority has been conducting such campaigns at a dozen downtown communities and will expand the practice citywide. Many of the neighborhoods are in the old town. The once prosperous area has retained historic traces of Shanghai’s development and kept the traditional lifestyle.

They include some well-preserved shikumen houses, which incorporate Chinese and Western architecture.

But the cramped living spaces and environment don’t meet the standards of modern urban life. Some of the homes still share kitchens and toilets and have been listed by the government as “the shikumen with the worst living environment.”

To make improvement within the limited space, the campaign has solicited ideas from designers including college professors and students, designing firms and amateur architects.

A poll will be held among experts, the urban planning authority, subdistrict officials and residents’ representatives to pick a solution.

Liu Yuelai, a professor of landscape design at Tongji University, is encouraging residents to plant herbs and flowers in the community gardens.

The May Garden in the Meilong Jiucun in Xuhui District, for instance, was created from a former community activity room and a cement playground covering 450 square meters.

After the renovation, over a dozen of herbs and flowers have been planted in four small lands in the garden. Plants include rosemary, lavender, water lily and bamboo. Several “herb boxes” have been set up for those on wheelchairs and who are visually handicapped to smell and touch. An insect land was designed for children to recognize various kinds of little creatures.

The trial program is also a response to a national campaign to improve living conditions across the country by promoting greener lifestyles, which has been applied on a broader scale.


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