I am reading about the Dashilar Platform this evening. I am sure that some of you are already familiar with what’s happening in this Beijing neighborhood since the platform was founded in 2011. But I am just turning my attention to it.
The Dashilar Platform is an approach to urban regeneration that grew out of a perceived failure, namely the redevelopment of Beijing’s historic Qianmen neighborhood in the lead up to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In this latter case, a top-down tabula rasa approach was adopted and the entire precinct was demolished to make way for what – I am told – is now a kitschy tourist area that has lost most, if not all, of its urban authenticity.
The Dashilar approach runs counter to this and is trying to work bottom-up. Below is a description of their strategy from the Dashilar Platform website. (It feels like it was written using Google Translate.)
Dashilar Platform is an open platform founded by Beijing Dashilar Investment Limited. As opposed to the conventional concept of blanket development, Dashilar Platform will utilize key nodes which act as catalysts for change in the area. Through research and design investigation, Dashilar Platform will promote certain archetypes, modules, and best-practice examples for both residents and outside investors. The aim is to encourage the community to move independently yet coherently towards the strong yet flexible goal of creating a sustainable community with increasing depth and diversity. All parties are welcome to join Dashilar Platform and participate in our [progressive] Dashilar Project.
Some view this “urban acupuncture” strategy as simply a way to promote gentrification through small injections of culture and design. But gentrification, without displacement, strikes me as being the point given that the area was in decline. It was also probably one of the only sensible approaches given the fragmented ownership and illegal structures in the area.
What stands out for me as I read up on the Dashilar Platform, is the acknowledgement that the market alone will not preserve all of which is thought to be currently desirable in the neighborhood.
Here is an excerpt from a Medium article written by Masha Borak – a journalist and translator based in Beijing:
Collaboration is not the only interesting thing about the [Dashilar] project. In the words of their representative, the platform wants to take on the role of a “urban curator" that would decide which kind of businesses could get cheaper rent so they wouldn’t be left to the market.
Given the discussion that is going on in Toronto right now about 401 Richmond Street West – a non-profit and cultural hub in an area of the city seeing significant development pressures – this struck me as being particularly timely and relevant.
Markets are not perfect.
If any of you have any familiarity with the Dashilar Platform and what has been happening in this neighborhood, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.