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Conference « Comprehensive reuse of industrial heritage in Wuhan, China »

Conference « Comprehensive reuse of industrial heritage in Wuhan, China », Emilie Tian Yan, June 7, 2012, Toulouse, FRAMESPA, Université de Toulouse II
Pierre-Marie Pay

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1The speaker was Emilie Tian Yan. She is a doctor, urban planner, associate professor, and deputy director of the architecture department at the Wuhan University of Technology. She was, at the time, a visiting professor at Toulouse University II-Le Mirail. Her presentation  was part of the research program Acteurs, société et économie.

2First, she dealt with the industrial heritage of Wuhan by dividing the industrialization of China in five periods. The first one occurred between 1840 and 1894. It was the initial period marked by westernization. The second period was that of early development, between 1895 and 1911. Between 1912 and 1936, the rapid development period took place. The years from 1933 to 1949 were a period of hardship. Indeed, the Chinese government had to face the attacks of the Japanese and move the industries within the country (in Wuhan in that case). The last period (1950s-1960s) was the period of revival, when the first five-year plan took place, with a significant help of the Soviet. Today, the protection of the industrial heritage is a priority of the Chinese government. On April 17, 2006 the China Industrial Heritage protection forum took place. During the forum, the Wuyi proposal was set : this proposal aims at integrating the industrial heritage in urban planning.

3Then, the speaker shed light on the industrial heritage in Wuhan. Wuhan is located at the junction of two rivers. Its location is quite interesting since the city is in the middle of the four most important cities in China : Beijing, Shangai, Hong Kong, and Chongqing. It is a metropolis of central China, the capital of the province of Hubei andone of the six largest cities in China, containing 9 million inhabitants. Tian Yan gave a historical survey of Wuhan in the 19th century. In 1842, China opened its ports. In 1918, five concessions were present along the river (France, Russia, United-Kingdom, Germany, and Japan).

4Today, 40 % of the population lives in the countryside. The major challenge of the city is to accelerate the processes of urbanism and industrialization.

5Wuhan is an old industrial city with scattered industrial land. Due to long term pollution, there is an unfavorable environment quality. The industrial heritage of high value has been preserved. In 2007, Wuhan initiated the relocation project of eight big companies. The reuse of old industrial land has to respect three preservation requirements : preserve original trees, existing roads, and abandoned water towers. Another decision of the city council was to transform the river side into a public space.

6In conclusion, the reuse of industrial heritage in Wuhan is a real investment on the part of the city. The city has a long industrial history and is aware of this part of its identity. Wuhan wants to stand as a model in China in this field.

7The work in process in Wuhan is very interesting. It illustrates a significant capacity to evolve, to meet the expectations of the future, to be dynamic without forgetting its history. This is a real quest for identity, for authenticity for the city.

8Furthermore, the “redevelopment” of the city constitutes a unique opportunity for all researchers and urbanism professionals. Indeed the city is significant in terms of inhabitants and surface area, and the number of industrial locations is also high. This fact, added to the political will of not burying the past of the city, has turned Wuhan into a giant and interesting laboratory.

9Wuhan has the future for itself : its exclusive geographical position gives it a prominent position. It seems that Wuhan has understood that a modern city is not only a city made of technology. A modern city is a city which puts men at its heart.

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Pierre-Marie Pay, « Conference « Comprehensive reuse of industrial heritage in Wuhan, China » », Les Cahiers de Framespa [En ligne], 11 | 2012, mis en ligne le 21 décembre 2012, consulté le 28 novembre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Pierre-Marie Pay

CIEP Toulouse, 4° année, speciality « Europe et Territoires ».

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