A rare blue sky morning allowed me to take this panoramic photo (thanks, iPhone 5) in which I attempted to capture the scale and scope of the redevelopment of one of many of Shijiazhuang’s (Hebei) cheng zhong cun (城中村). A few years ago the city government initiated an accelerated program of urban renovation that included the demolition and redevelopment of about 42 of these urban villages. The result has been an astonishing amount of construction activity, and a thoroughgoing change in the nature of life in the city. I’ve categorized this photo under “The pedagogy of everyday life in China,” but I won’t develop the discussion at this point. Needless to say, the change in lifestyle for the former residents of this converted village will be significant.
The apartment buildings in the foreground (the high rise on the left, two six floor walkups at the centre, and three on the right) date from the late 1990s/early 2000s and are attached to SOE office buildings built on former village land. Directly behind these sit the five walkups that house former residents of the village’s now demolished siheyuan (四合院 — courtyard style homes). In the left middle ground are dozens of 6th floor walk ups built and sold on Shijiazhuang’s vibrant real estate market in the 00s. The high rises in the middle ground and on the horizon are products of the acceleration of redevelopment during and following a government program known as san nian da bianyang. Another group of buildings is set to rise on the last remaining vacant ground (right, middle).