Anhua Lou

Anhua Lou (安化楼) was constructed in Beijing in May 1960, following Mao Zedong's proclamation that "People's communes are good," during the height of the Great Leap Forward. The people's commune movement proliferated in the countryside but eventually made their way to the cities, where they manifested in the design of a "high rise commune." The building's organization exemplifies many of the ideal reforms for the worker's domestic realm in striivng towards a stronger communist society. People's communes sought to create cohesive communities of laboreres whom shared their home and work lives. Most were organized around a basic unit of 2,000 people - the ideal number served by one dining canteen. Children and the elderly were to be taken care of by the community, and housework such as washing and sewing were also to be carried out in the company of others. Therefore, Anhua Lou did not include any kitchens in the individual living units. Instead, the entire first floor served as a canteen which served the building's residents. Club facilities occupied the center of floors two through eight, and the top floor served as an additional meeting room. Other amenities included a general store, a collective washroom, a kindergarten, and a gym.

 

An Hua Building. Ego/Structure Red Dwellings, Wang Di.

What was once the canteen is now used as bicycle storage. Ego/Structure Red Dwellings, Wang Di.

The building was one of three official model commune buildings constructed in Beijing - the other two have since been demolished. A 2011 article in the Global Times featured an interview with Shang Wenjiang, whom has lived in the building for fifty years. His lamentations of the loss of the sense of community in the building echoes how out of place Anhua Lou's once socialist goals seem amid Beijing's fast changing economic and social landscapes. He reminisces about the days when the residents lived as one family, celebrating weddings and mourning funerals together and helping each other with chores. He says, "We never used to lock our doors and it was okay. Now we barely know our neighbors." (Global Times)