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‘They looked like prisons’: How a new development brought humanity to China’s public housing

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A bright red elevated walkway is the centerpiece of an innovative new development in Beijing. Winding half a mile and linking a series of gardens, parks, and outdoor recreation spaces, the red walkway is like an aerial park in a forest of buildings. But this bold new design isn’t a high-end resort or luxury condos. It’s public housing.

[Photo: ArchExists/courtesy MAD Architects]Now open, the Baiziwan social housing complex in Beijing, designed by MAD Architects, is a 12-tower mega-development providing modest, government-subsidized housing to about 4,000 families. According to architect Ma Yansong, who has designed large-scale museums and civic buildings across China and the U.S., the project is at once a critique of social housing in China and a model for how it can change.

[Photo: Zhu Yumeng/courtesy MAD Architects]When the city of Beijing’s Public Housing Center approached his firm about submitting a proposal for a social housing complex, Ma was prepared. He has been researching China’s social housing for nearly a decade, starting with a course he taught at Tsinghua University in 2014. He’s toured many social housing projects across China and around Beijing over the years, and........

© Fast Company

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