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Modern China embraces heritage

Director of Make Architects, Katy Ghahremani, joined us at our Future Cities Forum 2 to describe the growing awareness in China of the need to preserve heritage buildings alongside modern developments.

Katy, who has led an array of notable projects across a range of sectors, has been overseeing The Temple House - a new boutique hotel in Chengdu, China for Swire Hotels.

Three restaurants, event spaces, landscaped hills and courtyards plus an urban day spa and teahouse are all included in the hotel project which completed this year.

When Katy began the design, she says she was told she could pull down the old buildings on the site but after some discussions managed to save them and persuade the Chinese that they had value.

Katy has not been alone in her experience of this lack of interest in preserving the past.

According to academics at Cornell, in The International Journal of Heritage Studies, the idea of 'authenticity' in Chinese architecture didn't exist much before the 1900s, Partly because Chinese architecture is made up of more fragile materials such as timber. Additionally, there has been a strong tradition of destroying and re-building with each dynasty of individual emperors.

In Europe, our past in preserved in stone, while in China, eternity is expressed in the immaterial part of heritage - more the social and cultural life that takes place inside the buildings and its spiritual meanings.

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