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Anger at demolition of renowned architects' home

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

10:31, January 30, 2012

BEIJING - The latest demolition of a siheyuan, the traditional Chinese courtyard home, in the capital's Dongcheng district, has triggered a huge public outcry, as it once belonged to two architects famed for protecting the country's ancient buildings.

Between 1931 and 1937, Liang Sicheng (1901-72) and his wife Lin Huiyin (1904-55), both regarded as among the most distinguished modern Chinese architects, lived in the courtyard house located at 24 Beizongbu Hutong, Dongcheng district. It was here they finished their groundbreaking study on traditional Chinese architecture.

Liang and Lin probably never imagined that one day their home would meet the same fate as many other ancient buildings in the country had faced - being demolished to make way for real estate development.

Over the past decades, high-rising office buildings, apartment blocks, and sprawling shopping malls have mushroomed in the heart of Beijing, replacing the maze of siheyuans and hutongs - the narrow lanes that used to characterize the city.

In 2009, some parts of the courtyard were demolished to make way for a commercial development project, but the cultural authority stopped the demolition in response to public anger. Since then, the site has been designated as a cultural relic, though a low-level one, requiring approval from the cultural heritage authorities for any redevelopment.

However, what remained was "furtively torn down" during the recent Spring Festival.

"When I was at home on Thursday, I read a post on a heritage protection forum, which said Liang and Lin's former home had already been destroyed," said Zeng Yizhi, a cultural relics protection activist.

Zeng, who lives in Heilongjiang province, asked a friend in Beijing to visit the site to confirm the news.

"When I found the news was true, it broke my heart," Zeng said. "Liang and Lin made such a great contribution to the protection of Chinese ancient buildings; if their home can be torn down, then developers can do the same thing to hundreds other ancient houses in the country."

Zeng reported the situation to the Beijing municipal administration of cultural heritage and the Dongcheng district cultural heritage committee submitted a report to the municipal cultural heritage bureau on Saturday. In the report the committee quoted an unidentified developer saying that the demolition was "in preparation for maintaining the heritage site".

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