Xiang Xi Bao - the continuing story
Xiang Xi Bao is a small town in southern China where time has stood still to an amazing degree. Once a busy river port in the transit of spices, the town lost all relevance when that trade disappeared. Nothing has changed the town, its fortress castle and its buildings since the era of the Chinese emperors. No political turmoil, no cultural revolution. Today the town of Xiang Xi Bao is a historical treasure of immense importance.
AFR have been invited to support the careful redevelopment of the community, the buildings, castle and temples and to integrate that response to the people who actually live in the town.
There are several challenges in the project. One is how to carry out a major restoration of the town and yet let the citizens remain in place. The other is how to balance the tourist interest from outside so that excessive numbers of visitors do not diluted the quality of the town. Much of impact of these dilemmas is absorbed by AFR's plan of "Inverse Space Development". This concentration on the space between the viable buildings allows much leeway for investment and progress. By using this common space and the many existing uninhabitable buildings there is ample room for considerable development - also economically for the townspeople.
In simpler terms we concentrate on the common spaces between existing buildings, the squares and the alley's . To this is added the many abandoned houses. The buildings to be restored first are those which today have no roofs and are uninhabited ruins. In this way the fabric of the community is quickly regenerated and rapidly attracts revenue. With increased inward investment comes jobs, income and grants for the population.
Places like Xiang Xi Bao need careful planning that lifts their economy and allows sensitive development of the town's assets. AFR have developed these kinds of tools which bring intelligent new thinking to the task.
Urban planning that comes to the aid of fragile communities needs to be able to listen to and understand all the different needs of the people involved. Even the way of communicating needs to b created and tuned before the right dialogue has value. In Xiang Xi Bao AFR has created a different type of urban modelling as a means of communicating.
One of the original wall paintings from the Xing dynasty still visible in one of the temples.
The quality of the buildings and their materials is still clearly evident in the old market square.