Architecture and Design Co., Ltd.

Participatory Old City Renovation and Cultural Conservation: The Collaboration of Pantang Village Micro-reconstruction in Guangzhou

Keywords: Place×History × Culture × Identification × Initiative × Cooperation

Urban Elephant
Architecture & Planning Co., Ltd.

FAN-WU-QI (Faan Nguk Kei)
Open Source Collaboration Platform

Pantang-wuyue Micro-reconstruction Collaboration Committee


Located in the western suburb of Guangzhou, Pantang Wuyue Village was famous for its large-scale cultivation of Pantang Wuxiu (Lotus root, water chestnut, water bamboo, arrowhead, water caltrop).

With the development of city expansion  and urbanization, Pantang Wuyue Village have gradually changed from a village with rural settlements into a urban community with urban-village features.

After 10 years of housing expropriation and demolition, the government started using micro-reconstruction policy for old city renovation and Pantang Village renewal.

Status & Topics

High density, old infrastructure, lack of public activity space and public services, nearly half of the old houses are expropriated and vacant for a long time, needs critical renovation

The village is adjacent to Liwan Lake Park, but it is isolated by the fence over 50 years. The park environment is not effectively utilized, so the village development is not promoted

Rich local intangible cultural heritages, but not known and recognized by the outside world. Difficult to strive for relevant external resources, and it is not easy to inherit and spread

Now managed by Neighborhood Committee, but it is too far away for its social services to cover. Lack of Village Committee or any formal organization to undertake public affairs

Great changes in renewal policies, low local participation

The change of renewal policy from large-scale demolition to micro reconstruction has made local residents experience a 10-year life change. Residents lack of participation in the renewal for a long time, and most of them have negative emotions

Old villages in city, protection vs./via transformation

The Village is closely surrounded by the urban development zone. Its architecture, historical elements and traditional features are facing greater challenges in the protection and inheritance during transformation

Gap: Material space improvement vs. subsequent management and operation

Lacking integrity and continuity: Although focusing on improving the material space environment of the villages, there is no mechanism to integrate the spatial function setting, or the specific activation, or the implementation of basic public service facilities in the future

Separated authorities, hard for interdepartmental connection

From reconstruction to operation, many government functional departments are involved, such as renewal, housing and construction, cultural relics, sub-district office, commerce and tourism center, etc. The separation of authorities increases the difficulty of interdepartmental participation and integration

Participatory Planning & Design

  • Participatory Research
Residents lead on-site research
Explanation Meeting for all villagers
Street stall opinions collect
  • Participatory Design
Participatory design workshop
Setting out with residents
Expand participation via exhibition site
  • Participatory Construction
Publicity of final design scheme
Local supervise, witness wall down
Co-find important historical sites
  • Participatory Maintenance
No fixed furniture, in line with residents’ multi-functional and flexible use habits
Strive for an accessible slope to connect village and park
Locals re-use old spar into bench
After site levelled and wall opened, the square in front of Wuyue Temple becomes the place for residents’ daily gathering and festival celebration
After damaged pavilion demolition, the square behind Wuyue Temple continued daily services, and created a place for local martial arts re-learning on weekends
  • Participatory Renewal
By making a 1:1 model, compare multiple on-site effects , and invite residents to vote, the local vision of re-see village history through a gatehouse and its protection and utilization plan of cultural relics , has finally rallied the consensus of residents and all relevant government departments and gained support
  • Circuitous Path, Residents First
Record whole village festival, but no villager answered
Gain primary trust by gifting back record photo album
Residents concerned re-construction, but no way to know
Respond to doubts, hold an explanation meeting and listened to criticism modestly
Discuss public space via discuss ancestral hall first
Respond to common memory, restore historical map
Respond to community wishes, draw community vision map
Respond to wishes to gather old photos, & jointly organize local culture story exhibition
Volunteer to stay on duty and assist residents in consultation, complaint and feedback
Invited to the village late at night, volunteer to design their dragon and lion banner
Join dragon boat maintenance & activities assistance
Assist in connecting NGOs and other resources, then villagers start their own inheritance experience classes
Villagers set up their own cultural public account Oral history research together
Gov. Bureau & Street Office initiate Collaboration Committee, locals, media etc. also included
Cross departmental communication through Committee, strive to implement needs and wishes one by one
Voting held by Committee recognized as “New Standard of Conservation”

Current achievements & deficiency

A. Mutual Trust & Cooperation Among Government Residents

The government leads in initiating Collaboration Committee. Through this mechanism innovation, residents will increase their understanding, support in micro-reconstruction, build a two-way communication platform with trust and mutual assistance.

A’. Difficulties of Cross Department Integration

1.No formal financial project for the moment, thus no normalization and dedicated operation.

2. No authority for cross department overall planning in this mechanism, thus some important related topics are difficult to deal with.

B. Feedback on Local Friendly Micro-reconstruction Design

1.Lead relevant design of micro-construction fully respond to residents’ historical memory and meet their daily-life needs as much as possible.

2. The participatory planning and design of the public space of the temple square received great support from residents, with remarkable results.

B’. Limitations of implementation conditions

1. The community gathered vision map, but it is difficult to coordinate comprehensively.

2.Time pressure in construction period, and construction quality is uneven. At present, many designs are not fully implemented.

C. Improve Material Living Environment Directly & Additionally

1. Spatial environment greatly improved, lots of old expropriated houses renovated, government started to rent them to introduce cultural industry.

2.With environment gets better, some residents start investing money in their private house renovation, with self-design or consulting our voluntary architects from Fan-Wu-Qi.

C’. Social Inertia Structure Dilemma

1. Some public spaces get consensus, but are not fully implemented because of other conditions. Participation started late, residents called it “late spring”.

2. At present, no policy mechanism to promote internal renewal of private houses in historical blocks. Economic difficulties, complex property rights etc. still hinder residents’ independent renewal.

D. Cultural Discovery, Inheritance & Social Influence

1. Deep discover of local historical and cultural value, bring residents-recognized local style and moving stories, enhance cultural heritage and community cohesion, promote design / inheritance simultaneously.

2.Expand social influence with media widely spread.

3.Create an unique mode of local participation and cooperation.

D’. Expectation of Multiple-use & Local Engagement In Future

1. The use of traditional space needs further restored.

2.Need chances to cultivate local residents to independently manage local specialty and undertake public care and community feedback.

3. Need chances to create a diversified model to enrich the future operation.