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The past, contemporary and future utility of Beijing courtyards

By Shanshan Lu


This project tackles the practical value of traditional courtyards in Beijing. It features a utilitarian perspective—examining the relevance of the courtyards on both macro- and micro-levels through mapping. The value of the project lies in its primary endeavor to introduce the concept of mutation into the controversy over the value of Beijing courtyards and to present an alternative for the present framework of preserving and design of the courtyards. In order to categorize the traditional courtyard typologies, five typical examples are selected as case studies. Both the social/historical context and the historical mutation of the individual courtyard are examined. This macro-level mapping sets the framework and leads to the more focused study of the most significant courtyard in a quest to determine the utility of the courtyard for its occupants. Based on the synthesis of the two levels of mapping, the ultimate utility of the courtyards in Beijing is expressed as the ability of the government to control the residents and the structural quality to facilitate the capacity of the space to allow occupants to organize themselves. Both types of utilities are inherent in the logic of the structure, which could be, and should be, transcended. A set of design criteria articulates the utility in detail and guides reader through the continuous realization of utility in a future uncertain, social trajectory. Finally an illustration of the criteria concludes the project

Topics: Beijing Courtyards, Utility, Mutation, Future social context
Year: 2010
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