The Old Beijing #4 | Residential Towers

There are thousands of these residential towers around Beijing of varying size and age. While they look as though they are from the fifties, in fact a lot of them are as recent as the early-nineties. Many of them are almost identical so perhaps there are only several sets of drawings that have been used time and again over the past thirty years – now that’s an efficient design process. An affliction that also affects recently completed, contemporary architecture is the lack of building maintenance programs and when combined with poorly applied external materials and finishes, buildings in Beijing continue to age as rapidly as I am these days.

As questionable as their architectural merit may be, these residential blocks are as much a part of the architectural heritage of Beijing as the Si Hu Yuan’s (courtyard houses) that line the Hutong’s (old laneways) of Beijing. Well renovated Si Hu Yuan’s are now among some the most expensive real estate investments in China whereas much of the residential accommodation in these towers is very basic.

With the square or rectangular plan rotated slightly off the north-south axis to ensure that all units are provided some natural daylight from the south, some of the views up there at forty of fifty meters off the ground must be outstanding on a blue sky day in spring. These photographs were taken in the middle of March 2011 but I couldn’t resist adjusting the color to sepia to exaggerate the age of the buildings – unfortunately there isn’t an app’ available yet that can help me with my age.