More on Yunnan 2009

July 17, 2009 China Preservation Comments (0) 1069

The rice replanting was in full swing throughout Yunnan when we were there in May and June, and you could watch this millenia-old agricultural ritual as we traveled north from Weishan to visit Jianchuan, to see the famous grottos and also the restored temples in Shaxi town. The Swiss had been involved in the efforts to restore these temples, which have some very excellent early Ming duogong, something you rarely see. Anyway, here are the temples at Shaxi in Jianchuan, Yunnan.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

China Again – Yunnan 2009

July 4, 2009 China Preservation Comments (2) 1179

There we are, all of us in Dali at the Three Pagodas, which is a classic Chinese preservation site. REALLY significant pagodas – the center one dates from the T’ang Dynasty – about 1200 years ago, and is quite similar to the Xiao Yan Ta (Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda) in Xi’an, which is visible in a post from last year. The flanking two pagodas are only a few hundred years old, but these things have survived the earthquakes that visit Yunnan and they are pilgrimage sites for not just tourists and architecture enthusiasts, but Buddhists as well. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Hello Again China

June 27, 2009 China Preservation Comments (0) 1034

This is my longest absence from my blog since it began a little shy of four years ago. The first three weeks I was unable to access wordpress to post while I was in China on our SAIC summer Study Trip to Weishan, our wonderful Southern Silk Road town in Yunnan. The subsequent two weeks of inaction we can attribute to a combination of jet lag, illness and procrastination. But now, the wait is over, so a little about our trip to Yunnan and the excellent work of the 14 students who made the trip. Continue Reading

Continue Reading


April 13, 2009 Chicago Buildings, China Preservation, Economics, Historic Districts Comments (2) 1200

I am reading Michael Meyer’s The Last Days of Old Beijing which is an excellent journal about the death and life of a traditional Beijing hutong, which is a narrow lane of courtyard houses. I was reading about how the planners and developers considered these areas slums even though they functioned extremely well and served more as incubators of improvement and socialization than harbingers of decay. Yet a crime and statistics that “proved” the area was overcrowded were enough to mark it for demolition.

As Meyer described it, I thought immediately of Jane Jacobs Death and Life of Great American Cities and the story of Boston’s North End, which was statistically a slum but visibly NOT. I only had to turn the page and Meyer told of Herbert Gans’ 1959 article on Boston’s North End and Jacobs’ coverage of the same subject and her wonderful term for what was happening in these traditional “stable, low-rent areas:” Unslumming. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Whan that Aprille

April 5, 2009 Chicago Buildings, China Preservation Comments (0) 992

Another blistering blitz of bleary activity for the ever weary never teary preservation professional during the last week. Thursday we had a followup with our Burnham Centennial Bold Plans partner communities as they prepare for their practice tours this month. You can go on one or two of the tours during Chicago’s Great Places and Spaces May 16 – Pilsen, Albany Park, Quad Communities/Bronzeville, Auburn-Gresham, South Chicago and the Indo-American Heritage Museum of West Ridge.

Ahh, Winneconna Parkway – I first learned of this hidden Chicago treasure back when I was on Chicago Ed’s late night radio show with the Chicago History panel in the 90s. Ed died this year and I occasionally see Vic Giustino, but I wonder about Ken Little, Father John McNallis, Bob Heinlein and some of the other regulars.

Back to 2009. Friday we had a morning meeting on High Speed rail, which is a long-standing (and therefore shovel-ready) plan to institute faster trains between Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. Our concern at the Gaylord Building in Lockport (where I am Chair of the Site Council) is that the trains run right by the building, subjecting it to vibrations but more importantly, cutting through the National Register district that connects the Gaylord Building (1838) to the Will County Historical Society (1837) and the downtown district on State Street (1830s-1930s) and of course the Norton Building (1855) across the Public Landing. This is of especial concern now that the Public Landing has become the Lincoln Landing (see February post) and resembles its historic character. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

End of March

March 31, 2009 Chicago Buildings, China Preservation, Interpretation, Technology Comments (0) 1036

March is going out more lionine than lamblike and perhaps April will be less hectic – it looks like I am staying in town all month (unless you count two tours to Lockport and Joliet for AIC). Our Masters in Historic Preservation program has a lot going on this month, starting next Monday, April 6 when my seminar class presents our ideas for interpretation of the Armitage-Halsted district to Alderman Vi Daley, the CTA and members of the Sheffield community. This class has done a great job of tackling a range of interpretive elements, from website and brochure and banners to a couple of installations at the Armitage L station designed to get people looking at the amazing buildings of the Armitage-Halsted historic district, with their Renaissance (Baroque) inspired architectural details in metal, stone and brick. Here are a few samples of these delicious buildings: Continue Reading

Continue Reading


November 20, 2008 China Preservation, Interpretation Comments (0) 1150

I gave a lecture at the Chicago Architecture Foundation today on Preservation in China, which was a compilation of observations from my last six trips there, notably the two SAIC student trips in 2004 and 2006. I broke it down into three basic challenges: 1. The challenge of fast-paced capitalist development combined with centralized planning control; 2. The challenge of intangible versus tangible heritage, i.e., a cultural bias against inhering cultural meaning primarily in tangible objects; and 3. The devastating effects of catastrophic tourist development, as evidenced in sites like Lijiang.

Here they tear down buildings in order to build brand new “antique” buildings. Continue Reading

Continue Reading


July 18, 2008 China Preservation, Historic Districts Comments (0) 1209

The Global Heritage Fund invited me to Pingyao as a new member of their Senior Advisory Board, so I was able to tag the trip on the back end of my work with the US China Arts Exchange Yunnan Sustainability Conference in Dali. All it required was a long layover in Beijing (not that bad, found a cool spot with an outlet and edited my book) and then a flight to Taiyuan, and then an hour ride with Han and Han to the loveliest hotel – a traditional Chinese courtyard house outfitted with all of the latest luxuries. I experienced what I like to call “The Dingle Effect” which is the arrival at a lovely, welcoming hotel after a long and arduous journey – it happened to Felicity and I in 1997 when we arrived in Dingle and it happened again in Pingyao. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Dong Yue Temple Four Years Later

July 6, 2008 China Preservation Comments (0) 1067

Thanks to Barry Maclean, the restoration of the Dong Yue temple in Weishan, Yunnan province is well underway. In this picture you can actually see the qiuwen screen that we found on site in 2004 when our SAIC students produced measured plans and a re-use plan for the temple site, on the edge of historic Weishan city and just below Weibaoshan, one of the 13 sacred Taoist mountains of China. Kudos to Mr. Li who is directing the restoration. The missing qiuwen screen was replicated, but without the characters in the interstices, a wise move. The decorative plaster on the side walls was restored and/or replicated only as necessary. This is the second excellent restoration in Weishan, the other being the Chang Chun temple on Weibaoshan. Both projects have a steady understated approach, unlike the gaudy over-restoration that one often finds.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Sustainability in China

June 29, 2008 China Preservation, Sustainability Comments (2) 1104

A long day around the conference table with copious cups of green tea and hearty discussions about how we are going to try to convince Yunnan officials that their efforts at sustainability in Gaoligongshan National Park and historic Weishan city need work. We spent several days touring the sights, which was fun for me since I had never seen Gaoligongshan, an amazing national park with incredible biodiversity. We also saw the progress in Weishan, where I was VERY gratified to see the restoration on the Dong Yue temple, which our students worked on four years ago. Continue Reading

Continue Reading