By: Luis Fco. Romero Martinez & Sandra Gomez Alba
WHAT IS A LILONG?
A Shikumen Lilong is a laneway in Shanghai (also call Longtang or just Lilong) and by extension, a community arranged around a laneway or several interconnected laneways. The Lilong can either refer to the lane that the house faces onto or a group of houses connected by the lane.
Lilongs residencies were prevalent during the end of the 19th century until the 1930´s, combining the traits of southern Chinese dwellings and western row houses; are the most representative of Shanghai residential architecture.
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE LILONGS?
During the concessional era, the Lilongs spread every corner of Shanghai foreigner concession. Foreign, Chinese, people from all social state, everyone living in Shanghai foreign concession could find their homes in these narrow lanes and tiny courtyard.
By 1950's the development of Lilongs in Shanghai has been stopped. The communist party came into power and Shanghai was closed to the world. As a symbol of capitalism Shikumen architecture was not encourage to be built, instead, a lot of post war 6-storey apartments were built in Shanghai foreign concession.
Years of wind and rain have aged a large number of the brick-timber structured and household-dense Shikumen architectures. They are gradually disappearing from our sight with the city's planning and transformation.
THE LIFE NOWADAYS
On a sunny day, every household dries their laundry in the air, both convenient and energy-saving.
Cobblers, moving vendors and other business often set up a stall at Longtang entrance where everyone must pass-by. There are also shops inside the Lilong even in some case can find hotels.
Flowers and plants show the leisure life of the neighborhood.
Tengfeng Li is the Shikumen Lilong chosen due to it is one of the oldest (before 1876) and closest of the cultural heritage called The Bund. As others, this Shikumen Lilong are under risk of demolition but especially in that case, for its proximity to one of the most commercial areas.
PLAN B, THE SOLUTION
For all these reasons is necessary a 'Plan B' to preserved the wonderful and unique idiosyncrasy of Shanghainese's style of living.
It is possible to save the existing houses increasing the number of these in the chosen area (The proposal show the increment of 147 units) growing the number of storey (following a growth pattern based on the sunlight, natural ventilation and privacy for better adaptation to climate of the environment and reduce energy consumption). Is is a determinant factor the fact that the Lilong essence has to be preserved vertically: saving the community spaces where the daily chores take place, where neighbor gather to cook, play, talk... share their life.
Lilong housing, an urban legacy, has been compromised by the mass urban redevelopment of the city that rendered Shanghai vulnerable to globalization at an unprecedented scale over the past 20 years.
Two out of three Lilongs in Shanghai, are being demolished. Vertical Lilong could become a 'Plan B' to stop it which Shanghai can resist the escape of cultural globalization.