Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested citation:

Zhang, Yimei (2016). Policy Evaluation and Recommendation for Preserving Residential Compounds in Beijing: A Process-Oriented Approach. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Between 1949 and 1958, a large number of residential compounds were built in Beijing to house the growing population in the capital city of the newly founded People’s Republic. They were planned as self-sufficient residential components of “work-units”, and usually consisted of groupings of three to five-story buildings with various amenities and institutions. The construction of these neighborhoods profoundly shaped the city’s landscape. Since the reform of the "work-unit" system and the opening of the housing market in the late 1990s, residential compounds gradually declined and are now threatened of demolition under the city's redevelopment projects.

The thesis researched into the history, evolution and current conditions of the residential compounds in Beijing, and argues that residential compounds deserve preservation because of their heritage and social values, yet traditional preservation policy is not sufficient to address the challenges posed by residential compounds, which requires a broader preservation perspective and an active participation in the urban redevelopment process. The thesis evaluates policies both already in place in China and used in the US, and proposes a new preservation process that makes meaningful interventions to better preserve these neighborhoods in Beijing.


danwei, housing, redevelopment, work-unit, planning



Date Posted: 31 May 2016