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I fell in love… with a city.

March 11, 2009

Beijing is a truly amazing place.

Day 4:
We started the day by heading to the Tsinghua University Architecture school, where we met a couple of professors who specialize in ‘green’ energy architecture and the hutong courtyard housing…

What’s a hutong?

It is a city block here in Beijing (and in other places in China, I think) that connects a series of narrow streets and alleys with a main thoroughfare at the outside edges. The houses in these blocks are like little boxes that are closed off from the outside and all of them have a courtyard at the center. Traditionally these things house up to three families, all in really close contact with each other. Oh, and they go back hundreds of years, to the days of the emperors.

So, then we split up with a group of local English Architecure students as translators to go and interview the people who live in those old districts about their way of life.

Tours (I’ll talk more about these later), awesome food, etc….

Day 5:
Tuesday the group got up bright and early and went back to the local university for a couple of really interesting lectures… (yes, really) about modern Chinese ‘green’ building designs and we took a tour of several buildings on campus.

More tours, including the awesome 798Art District (again, later…), more really good food, etc…

It was Tina’s birthday, too.

Apparently, Karaoke is taken very seriously over here. We went to a hotel that specialized in it, rented a big full-room service living room in the basement (only one of twenty or more) and rocked out to crappy remakes of American pop music… The stars of the night were our two Chinese-speaking students – Xin and David. The rest of us paled in comparison. They’re both darn good singers. Jeff wasn’t bad either.

Day 6:
Beijing University has an Architecture department too, of course, so we headed over there and talked with a professor who specializes on the hutong. Her group recently remade an old run-down courtyard house and the Chinese government may use it as a demo for others like it.

We toured Prince Gong’s Palace, and another really nice hutong.

Okay… so we’re all caught up.

Next time I’ll start spotlighting the fine folks who are working on this project, hopefully in their own words.

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