The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

author:Sanlian Cultural City
The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Oral description|Song Gang, Yu Qianwen

Lantern Festival

Editor|Wang Feiyu

Title photo photography|Yang Yiheng

Located in the center of Panyu City Bridge, the pioneer community is the epitome of the thousand-year-old history and culture of Panyu. The community preserves a complex of buildings from multiple historical periods from the Qing Dynasty to modern times, and is a spatial sample of the historical evolution of Panyu City. The old residents who used to live here share a special emotional memory that belongs to Shiqiao. In the past two decades, as Panyu has actively integrated into the development of the main urban area of Guangzhou, an economic, educational and residential agglomeration area has been formed in the northern district of Panyu, and the center of gravity of the city has shifted north. As the political and commercial center of Panyu, the city bridge has gradually declined in function and space, and the streets and shops seem to be frozen in the prosperous moment of the 80s and 90s of the last century.

The micro-renovation of Panyu Bridge Pioneer Community was jointly completed by Liang Society, Guangzhou Urban Planning and Design Co., Ltd., Guangzhou Habitat Urban and Rural Planning and Design Co., Ltd., and the School of Architecture of South China University of Technology. Although the renovation area of the project is only 16 hectares, it faces multiple problems in planning, architecture, historical memory and even the industrial positioning of the entire region. In the words of Song Gang, the main designer of the project and co-founder of the architectural design of the Vertical Liang Society, in the early days of the project launch in 2019, he also faced the question of "what to transform". In the Pearl River Delta region, the pioneer community is not a typical old neighborhood, and the micro-transformation of the pioneer community led by the community neighborhood committee may be just one of the many old community renovation projects in Guangzhou. As elsewhere in the PRD, pioneer communities face complex questions brought about by the times: when the face of the city is frozen and the people who live here are aging, how can an old community be revitalized?

In the just-concluded preliminary review of the 2023 2nd Sanlian Humanistic City Award, Panyu Shiqiao Pioneer Community Micro-transformation was shortlisted for the sub-award of the "Community Building Award".

The following is the description of the main designers of the project, Song Gang (architectural design) and Yu Qianwen (planning and design)——

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Song Gang:

The Vertical Beam Society has done many urban renewal projects before. Compared with areas with stronger historical and cultural imprints such as Yongqingfang and Nanhai Dijiao, the pioneer community located in Panyu Shiqiao is not typical. But on the other hand, it is a typical living block with traces of the history of the Pearl River Delta.

Drive from the center of Guangzhou all the way to the south, past the high-rise Zhujiang New Town, and to the west you can see the Canton Tower. Cross the Pearl River along the South China Expressway and pass through Haizhu District, which has the tertiary industry as the economic pillar. Along the way, you can see the transformation of the city, and after about 40 minutes, you can reach Panyu City Bridge.

In the Pearl River Delta region, there are many polder towns between the river systems, which are about 20 or 30 kilometers away from each other, and the water systems have formed relatively independent economic units. The Shiqiao waterway is the mother river of Panyu, where rice and other goods used to be distributed. After the reform and opening up, Shiqiao also had a brilliant time. In the 1980s, the processing industry and foreign trade industry developed rapidly, and full buildings were built on streets that did not have time to widen. At the peak of the regional economy, the rent per square meter of a small shop could reach 1,000 yuan.

In 2000, Panyu, located south of Guangzhou, was officially abolished and became the administrative district of Guangzhou. From 2000 to 2009, the third phase of the South China Expressway was completed and opened to traffic. Through this trunk highway, Panyu can directly connect to the main urban area of Guangzhou. The urban area of Guangzhou is in the north, Nansha, which is the sub-center of Guangzhou, is in the south, Panyu is sandwiched in the middle, and the old city of Shiqiao, centered on the waterway, slowly declines.

In the 70s and 80s, factories in the Great Lakes region of the northeastern United States closed down in large numbers. Industrial equipment is rusty, regional population loss, urban scenery is no longer beautiful, and the term "industrial rust belt" is born. I think this description may be slightly changed to refer to those areas in the Pearl River Delta that were once brilliant in the early days of reform and opening up. Because of different development dynamics, they either stagnate or continue under the changes of the times. Like Panyu Shiqiao, the changes of the times have made the prosperity of this place a thing of the past, and its appearance is frozen in the past moment, it is the "commercial rust belt" of the Pearl River Delta region.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Panyu Shiqiao pioneer community micro-transformation

Project Designer Song Gang (Architectural Design)

Yu Qianwen:

As a pilot city for the transformation of old communities in the country, Guangzhou will push a number of old communities to upgrade and transform every year, and the renewal of pioneer communities is also carried out under such an opportunity.

Unlike other ordinary old neighborhoods, Shiqiao, where the pioneer community is located, has a long history as the center of Panyu's politics and commerce in history. Many Panyu people, including many staff members of the Panyu planning and management department at that time, grew up here and have special emotional memories of this place. Because of this sentiment, everyone is very cautious about the transformation of the pioneer community, because the transformation not only points to the improvement of the living environment, but also carries many people's expectations for the revitalization of the city bridge.

The renovation project takes the 16-hectare administrative area of the pioneer community as the overall planning area, and is jointly completed by Ziliang She, Guangzhou Urban Planning and Design Co., Ltd., Guangzhou Habitat Urban and Rural Planning and Design Co., Ltd., and the School of Architecture of South China University of Technology. At the planning level, we need to study the culture of this area, sort out the historical context, and select some suitable public spaces as transformation nodes under the system of micro-renovation of old communities; At the architectural level, specific and microscopic renovation design is required; Throughout the process, we also study the industry and macro positioning of the entire region.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Panyu Shiqiao pioneer community micro-transformation

Project Designer Yu Qianwen (Planning and Design)

Song Gang:

In the beginning, we didn't know exactly what to transform and how to change it. The project was launched in 2019 and completed in 2022, lasting nearly 4 years. In the early stage, we experienced the process of "inventory accounting", property rights relations, municipal information... These are all clear one by one.

As a government-led old community renovation project, there are corresponding restrictions on the use of funds for the renovation of pioneer communities. The first type of central funds, which can basically only be used to improve people's livelihood; The second category is special funds, Guangzhou has special funds for urban renewal, and there are corresponding requirements for use, but they are relatively flexible and can support cultural transformation; The third category is some bond-like support funds, which will clearly require that the so-called landscape decoration cannot be done.

So we are in the process of continuous inventory, gradually understand what the goal of the transformation is. At the same time, local finances will also have their own understanding and needs for urban renewal, so it is also necessary to cooperate with local governments to clarify the source of various funds, and then reverse what design needs to be made. Unlike traditional, purposeful architectural design, micro-renovation of pioneer communities is a resilient and exploratory mode of work.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The pioneer community concentrates buildings with characteristics from different eras

Photo by Yang Yiheng

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Yu Qianwen:

In addition to the renovation of living space in the renovation of old residential areas, the micro-transformation of pioneer communities also needs to complete the organic renewal of historical culture and architectural space.

In the preliminary research, we found that because the construction and renewal of the city bridge basically stopped in the 1990s, the characteristic building complex of different eras has been preserved here: from the wok ear houses and green brick houses of the Ming and Qing dynasties, to the red brick walls and oyster shell walls of the 1950s and 1960s... It's rare that a pioneer community has so many buildings with different era characteristics in a small scale.

As a result, we have compiled local conservation plans. In addition to a graded heritage and historic building in the area, the conservation plan also lists a new batch of buildings with certain historical and cultural value for pre-protection.

When we first planned it, we came up with a concept called "Living Neighborhood Museum". "Museum" is not a figurative concept, but a condensed history of the entire Shiqiao and even Panyu, and the people living here and the old things here constitute a memory association. We hope that through planning and selected transformation nodes and organizational routes, we can sort out, summarize and summarize scattered cultural resources.

The transformation of the pioneer community basically forms a "T" shaped basic layout: horizontal is Qianfeng Avenue, vertical is Pioneer Avenue, with Pioneer Primary School as the core, and the two blocks are connected in series.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Frontier Avenue and Pioneer Avenue are connected with Pioneer Primary School as the core

Photo by Yang Yiheng

Song Gang:

Pioneer Primary School is the focus of our restoration. Located in the center of the community, it was the Xie's Wenfeng Ancestral Hall more than a hundred years ago, which later became the township Wenfeng Primary School, which was renamed Pioneer Primary School in 1952. In 2010, due to development needs, the teaching function of Pioneer Primary School was moved away, and the school building here was vacant. Eighty or ninety-year-olds will remember that this is an ancient traditional ancestral hall. For the post-70s and post-80s, this is where they go to elementary school. As the only elementary school in the community, before it moved, the people who lived in the pioneer community were probably alumni.

We demolished the school walls and turned it into an activity and transportation center that was completely open to the surrounding residents. While reinforcing the original structure of the old teaching building, it also changed the architectural pattern by removing part of the floor slab and wall, so as to provide adaptation for the inclusion of new formats and future operations in the future.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Pioneer Elementary School is transformed into an activity and transportation center that is completely open to surrounding residents

Photo by Yang Yiheng

On some particularly narrow core arterial roads, we demolished some private buildings to expand the accessible space. These messy buildings were demolished, and many of the originally beautiful houses were revealed. Through the renovation of the façade, their original architectural form was restored.

I was very impressed that we restored an aunt's house. In the Pearl River Delta region, there were originally "self-combing women", that is, women of marriageable age combed their braids into buns in order to show their will not to marry. Self-grooming girls support themselves by doing crafts and labor in their youth, and when they are old, they live in the house with their sisters, who are also self-grooming women. This pension house is called "Aunt's House". We restored this house, in a sense, and also protected a long history.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The traditional appearance of the aunt's house was restored through façade restoration

Photo by Yang Yiheng

There are also many oyster shell walls on Pioneer Street, that is, the oyster shells that have been eaten are directly used as building aggregates. This is a feature of the construction of the southern seaside. On the one hand, it is made of local materials, on the other hand, the three-layer exterior wall of oyster shell, yellow mud and glutinous rice is quite strong, and coupled with the characteristics of the oyster shell itself, this material can not only be moisture-proof. It also prevents stepping on the wall.

Later, we remodeled some of the red brick walls, especially with some oyster shells embedded inside. This is not only for aesthetic reasons, Guangzhou is a wild city, and many southern cities have such characteristics. Here, the sense of grand order common in the north is difficult to establish, replaced by a gentle grassroots force. The oyster shell wall is the embodiment of this difference and grassroots power, which is perhaps the most valuable part of the local spirit.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The remodeled red brick walls are embedded with oyster shells

Photo by Yang Yiheng

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Yu Qianwen:

The aging degree of residents in the pioneer community is relatively high. Local residents are basically over 50 years old. Many young people go out to live in the elevator room and do not want to come back, while many elderly people are reluctant to leave.

In September 2019, under the leadership of Professor Li Hao of Sun Yat-sen University, we launched the "Co-creation" workshop, using the oral histories of residents of different ages as clues to solicit everyone's transformation needs, hoping to mobilize the participation of various actors such as the government, communities, residents and enterprises. Many Panyu people who grew up here as children and later settled elsewhere heard the news and flew back. Need space for children to play, the elderly to rest, greenery, cleaner and more spacious streets, safe monitoring equipment... They presented us with their own vision and vision for the transformation of pioneer communities.

Mr. Lai Ziyuan, chairman of the Panyu Hometown Association in Hong Kong, said that although he did not live here when he was a child, his father was born and raised here. Because he went back to his hometown with his father to visit relatives, he was very impressed by the ancestral hall here. If it is remodeled, he is willing to put his collection on display here. There is also Mr. Tse Kwok-qing from the Hong Kong business community, who hopes that through transformation, he can drive the development of industries here... People with different identities and backgrounds have placed different expectations on the transformation of the pioneer community. But one thing is the same, everyone feels that this is where their emotional accumulation lies.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Through the "Co-Making" workshop, the ideas and visions of residents of different ages were solicited

Photo courtesy of Guangzhou Urban Planning and Design Co., Ltd

In response to the needs of residents, we have compiled a set of design guidelines for the renovation of pioneer community streets and lanes for different styles of building repair. The guidelines include both written descriptions and graphic representations to facilitate residents' reading and comprehension. Seeing the map, residents know which area their house is located in, and what design patterns and styles are promoted in the area.

We have also set up a voluntary "community planner" service system, and if community residents want to improve the quality of their homes, they can consult us through the street. A resident of Lane 18 wanted to repair his house himself. He saw a red brick building that we had renovated and asked us if this red brick material would be more in harmony with the surrounding area when renovating the façade. In the end, he also chose a red brick patch - although the material is not exactly the same, but this shows the initiative of the residents. We hope that through this service system, we can maintain close contact with the community neighborhood committee and keep the community continuously updated.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The renovated red brick complex of Qianfeng Street

Photo by Yang Yiheng

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Yu Qianwen:

After the renovation, there are some new residents in the community: some elderly people, who have retired to do small business later; There are also young people from other places, although we have not yet opened the rental window, they may have accidentally walked here, felt that the environment was good, and moved over.

The pioneer community transformation is led by the community neighborhood committee, so the organization and centripetal nature are quite strong. We are also continuing to do return visits to the project and research in the surrounding areas, hoping to get more real feedback. I was very impressed by one of the residents who said to us, oh, this place has changed so well, a lot of people around come to walk their dogs, there is shit everywhere. They want to talk to the people who manage the community and put up signs like "Puppies don't defecate in the open."

I think this feedback is quite interesting. In the old town, it seems rare to have such an open space, and we are not very eager to fill it with functions. Just as the inhabitants have changed after the renovation is completed, we hope to observe the slow changes that occur here in the future, and the possibility of more natural growth.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The negative space in the red brick building complex of Lane 18 has been transformed into a public open space

Photo by Yang Yiheng

Song Gang:

The transformation of pioneer communities is based on environmental improvements, not commercial development. For this reason, most of the buildings after the renovation are still vacant. Of course, the current state of affairs stems from some objectively existing "structural" problems. First of all, there is a lack of centralized space, and decentralization means that property management is difficult; Secondly, the space for general commercial needs is 20,000 square meters to 30,000 square meters, and the pioneer community does not have enough volume; Third, and most crucially, the neighborhoods surrounding the pioneer community are not bustling. As I mentioned earlier, the "rust belt" lacks a certain driving force here for business. Therefore, there is no way to establish a unified business format and hand it over to market-oriented operation for the time being, and it is still in an intermediate state.

But in the process of transforming the pioneer community, the old and dilapidated here has gradually become better and better. People from many other places in the surrounding area came to see and learn. It is gradually known that these old and dilapidated can be exploited. Perhaps in the future, with the transformation of the surrounding communities, the renewal of the old town will change from quantitative to qualitative, and the former prosperity will slowly be restored.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The exterior walls of the red brick complex on West Huancheng Road have been cleaned and restored

Photo by Yang Yiheng

As architects, we may do projects that are essentially to express the architect's own voice. But the transformation of pioneer communities does not fall into this category. I define this project as an extremely ordinary sample, like a girl next door.

It is said to be ordinary because Panyu Shiqiao presents a "commercial rust belt" state, which is a particularly common state in the Pearl River Delta region. Recently, many film and television works set in the 1980s and 1990s have chosen to be filmed in small cities in Guangdong, because the time in these cities seems to be stuck in that era. The micro-transformation of pioneer communities is also one of the renewal samples that are taking place in the Pearl River Delta region.

There are so many old cities in China, and there are many good buildings. It is unlikely that all of these buildings will be listed and listed as historic buildings. Over time, they are gradually collapsing. If they are not maintained, these buildings may not be there after ten or twenty years.

For architects, restoring old houses that are about to collapse is the most basic problem we solve under the requirements of professionalism. When these old houses are repaired, it may be able to become a vehicle for something in the future. But as an architect, when doing this work, I just started and told myself not to try to do things with greater ambition.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

The renovated entrance to Pioneer Avenue enhances openness and permeability

Photo by Yang Yiheng

In the future, the pioneer community may quickly become a so-called "net red" block in three to five years with the structural adjustment of the entire old Panyu. But we can't replicate so many "influencers", and the pioneer community may always be in such a quiet state. The public space we renovated may be turned into a community canteen, and the original museum may be turned into a small exhibition hall. I think that's enough. It's a normal project, and if someone finds the neighborhood quite interesting, even better.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

With the theme of "Flowing Publicity", the 2023 2nd Sanlian Humanistic City Award hopes that after experiencing the changes of individual feelings and emotions, we can create new and energetic public spaces in the city with more active observation and questioning, and discover the public realm with survival and vitality in the overlap of multiple spaces, so as to further promote the social value and humanistic care of Chinese cities.

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Award Setting:

Public Space Award (People and Places)

It aims to recognize urban public spaces that embody humanistic care, promote social equity, and improve the quality of urban public life, including physical space practices such as architecture/planning.

Architectural Contribution Award (People and Architecture)

It aims to recognize outstanding architectural individual or group design, through the building itself and the spatial function it ends, to play a positive role in changing people's lives, and even driving the overall human development of the region or city, which can be a new construction, reconstruction or restoration of architectural projects.

Community Building Award (People and Community)

It aims to recognize large-scale and inspiring activities for residents' common life, which can include community practices such as community space creation, community environmental governance and community operation.

Eco-Friendly Award (Man and Nature)

It aims to recognize design practices/technical research that respect the ecological environment, promote harmonious coexistence between man and nature, and provide green and sustainable development solutions for the actual development of the city, including ecological restoration, green buildings, urban landscape, etc.

Urban Innovation Award (People and Urban Vitality)

It aims to recognize experimental and innovative projects that actively explore the social significance and humanistic care of the city, including physical or non-physical projects such as space design, public art, and urban events; Or actively seek better urban living and make innovative exploration of long-term practices to solve urban problems including transportation, medical care, education and so on.

Scope of Award:

Physical or non-physical projects completed in China between July 1, 2020 and March 31, 2023, including building units, landscape spaces, ecosystems, community building, innovative practices, and non-physical urban public events and system solutions.

Award Dimensions:


Close to city life and respectful of real needs


Promote the comfort and integrity of public life, stimulate public participation, and satisfy people's sense of dignity, equality and worth


Pioneering the vision of the future and providing new possibilities for solving today's social problems

Aesthetics ESTHETICS

Arouse the imagination that enriches life and culture, and influence the aesthetic awareness of the city and its citizens

Award Process:

April-May 2023

The awards were launched and the nomination panel was nominated

June 2023

The preliminary jury votes on the nominated projects and selects the shortlisted projects

July-September 2023

The final jury conducts on-site visits to the shortlisted projects

September 2023

Final jury final evaluation

October 2023

The 2nd Sanlian Humanistic City Award Ceremony, Chengdu

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

Organizing committee:

Representative of the organizer, Sanlian Life Media

Chairman of the organizing committee: Li Honggu

Organizing Committee Members: Jia Dongting/Li Wei/Wu Qi/Zeng Yan

Project Coordinator: Jia Dongting

Project Execution: Pan Hong/Song Yang/Wang Feiyu/

Yuan Xiaoxue/Yu Bingru/Wu Xiaoshuang

Nomination Group: (in alphabetical order)

Representatives of various fields

Chen Qiufan/Chen Wen/Cui Cancan/Dong Gong/Dong Hao/Duan Yuting/He Jianxiang/He Xing/He Zhe/He Zhisen/Jiang Jun/Jiang Yuhui/Jin Qiuye/Yan Anqi/Li Dihua/Li Han/Li Hu/Li Lun/Li Xiangning/Li Xiaohong/Li Zhenhua/Liang Chen/Liang Yongan/Long Ying/Liu Heng/Liu Yuelai/Liu Yichun/Lu Andong/Ma Long/Ma Yin/Mao Jihong/Mao Jian/Ni Yang/Nie Rongqing/Pang Wei/Song Zhuangzhuang/Shen Zhijun/Sultan/Sun Haiting/Sun Li/Sun Qian/Tang Keyang/Tao Ye/Tong Ming/Wang Sha/Wang Hui/Wang Nan/Wang Zigeng/ Wu Hongliang / Xia Solstice / Yan Fei / Yan Mingdan / Yan Shijie / Yao Dongmei / Yi Haibei / Yi Liming / Zhang Ming / Zhao Yuanchao / Zhi Wenjun / Zhu Jingxiang / Zhu Xiaodi / Zhuang Shen / Zhang Yuxing / Zuo Jing / BTR

Preliminary Jury: (in alphabetical order)

An authoritative expert in the field of architecture and planning

Gao Shiming | Dean and professor of China Academy of Art

Hu Rushan | Founding partner of Neri&Hu Design Lab

Li Xiaojiang | Former President of China Academy of Urban Planning and Design

Li Xinggang | Chief Architect of China Architectural Design and Research Institute

Liu Jiakun | Jiakun Architects is the chief architect

Ma Yansong | Founding partner of MAD Architects

Meng Jianmin | Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering

Wang Jianguo | Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering

Wu Zhiqiang | Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering

Zhu Wei | Dean and Professor of the School of Architecture of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Visiting Professor of Yale University

Final Jury:

An authoritative expert in the field of architecture and culture

Chairman of the Final Jury

Zhang Yonghe | Founder of Non-Architecture, Chief Architect, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Professor Emeritus of MIT

Members of the Final Jury

Deyan Sudjic| Honorary Director of the Design Museum, London, UK

Dai Jinhua | Professor of Chinese, Peking University

Wang Minan | Professor, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University

Item Biao | Anthropologist, director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany

Zhou Rong | He is a critic of contemporary architecture and cities, and an associate professor at the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University

Li Honggu | General Manager of Sanlian Life Media Co., Ltd., Editor-in-Chief of Sanlian Life Weekly

Designated independent counting body:

PwC Zhongtian

Responsible for counting and reviewing votes,

The final statistics will be kept confidential before the award ceremony.

Visual Design:

another design

The old town, frozen in the old days, has become a living neighborhood museum

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