Fusuijing Visited

Fusuijing was one of four urban people's communes constructed in the late 1950's. Unlike its sister building Anhualou, it is built in a distinctive zig-zag shape. In addition to private dwelling units which each had its own bathroom and balcony, the building featured copious communal space, including kitchens, a dining hall, and activity rooms. Before visiting Fusuijing, the status of the building was unknown to me. I had read in some reports that the building had been demolished and in others that it was still standing. Nevertheless, I found the general location of the building and headed there on a warm weekday afternoon.

The building is located in a dense neighborhood of Hutong, much of which is still occupied and alive with activity. The approach to the building is through a meandering network of pathways, past women washing vegetables, children chasing each other, and many small shops and restaurants all contributing to the vibrant life of the neighborhood.

As I walked towards the entrance, I was relieved to see a group of elderly men playing chess outside in the courtyard. This meant that the building was still occupied. Inside, the building is clearly worn down. Construction materials litter the floor, which I attribute to the natural decay of the building. However, the further up I walk, it becomes clear to me that the building is in an intermediate stage of preparation for demolition. Many of the dwelling units have been sealed up by brick, possibly to prevent residents from moving back in. Still, some residents linger in the building, their suspicions aroused by my presence. I assure them that I am visiting for the building’s architectural value.

On the top floor, I find most of the units completely sealed. I find one that has a void remaining in the center of the partly bricked door, large enough for me to climb through. As I enter the once-occupied dwelling unit, the window in front of me frames a view of Beijing, with a traditional Hutong neighborhood in the foreground and encroaching modern high-rises not so far away, a perfect metaphor for the fate of the building that I am standing within.