Event Apr/11
Michele Bonino + Filippo De Pieri: The Danweis of Beijing and the Notion of “Industrial Heritage” in Contemporary China


Danwei—these were urban sectors in China that were characterized by close links between work, residence, and social facilities. They are the material product of socialist city planning and therefore provide an urban experience that forms a stepping stone between the hutongs of the imperial capital and the superblocks of the present-day metropolis. Contrary to the disused industrial sites in Western cities that often disrupt the continuity and scale of the urban fabric, the danwei have a much closer relationship to the historical, as well as the contemporary city. In contemporary urban China, the danwei represent a unique experimental field of urban design. The talk will look at the history and future of former danwei and discuss strategies for dealing with industrial heritage. Case studies show the problems that go hand in hand with transformation and present perspectives and potential with regard to usage and the urban regeneration of the contemporary city.

Michele Bonino, architect, is Associate Professor of architectural and urban design at Politecnico di Torino, where he is the Rector’s Delegate for relations with China and the Program Director of the Master of Science in Architecture. He has been a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing (China, 2013 and 2014) and a Visiting Scholar at MIT (USA, 2016). In 2015 he directed, with Zhang L., the international research “Memory, Regeneration” dedicated to the reuse of industrial heritage in contemporary China. Presently is the Principal Investigator of the research “Chinese New Towns: Negotiating Citizenship and Physical Form”, in partnership with EPFL and Tsinghua. He was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Milan Triennale, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture. He’s the author of three books and several articles for international magazines.

Filippo De Pieri is Associate Professor of architectural and urban history at Politecnico di Torino. His research focuses on the history of contemporary European, North American, and East Asian cities. His publications include the books Il controllo improbabile: progetti urbani, burocrazie, decisioni in una città capitale dell’Ottocento (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2005), Storie di case: abitare l’Italia del boom (Rome: Donzelli, 2013, as a co-editor), Explorations in the Middle-Class City (Siracusa: Lettera 22, 2015, as a co-author) and Beijing Danwei: Industrial Heritage in the Contemporary City (Berlin: Jovis, 2015, as a co-editor), as well as several articles and guest-edited issues for international journals. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University (USA) and Tsinghua University (China) and is presently a visiting scholar at the EPFL (Switzerland) where he is leading the international research project “Memory and the city: assessing tools for interdisciplinary research and teaching.”