Tin Sheds shows China's pioneering conservation work

2 July 2014

A new exhibition at the University of Sydney's Tin Sheds Gallery showcases the pioneering conservation and preservation work carried out by Tongji University in Shanghai, including several of China's World Heritage Sites, over the past decade.

Founded in 2003, the Historic Conservation Program at Tongji University's College of Architecture and Urban Planning has undertaken several projects for important World Heritage Sites. Among these are: the Sangzhutse Fortress in Shigatse, Tibet; Fujian Tulou (Fujian Earthen Structures) in Fujian Province; the Ancient City of Ping Yao in Shanxi Province; and the Old Town of Lijiang in Yunnan Province.

University of Sydney's Trevor Howells, senior lecturer and co-ordinator of the Heritage Conservation Program in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, said: "The scope of the Tongji's program is far-reaching, encompassing a wide range of urban and regional sites from individual buildings to important urban centres, historic gardens and cultural landscapes.

"The skilful balance of traditional and modern building techniques, conservation of materials, appropriate methods of structural repair, all supported by meticulous methods of documentation, recording and analysis, underpin their approach to the care and management of places of great cultural significance."

Through an engaging visual display and case studies of key architectural and urban conservation projects, Envisioning Historical Place from Tongji University traces the history and achievements of its Historic Conservation Program over the last ten years.

An exhibition highlight is the Sangzhutse Fortress project. Built in 1393, the hill-top fortress commonly called the 'Little Potala' underwent a rigorous preservation of its ruins with a sensitive reconstruction of areas destroyed over time, particularly its superstructure and terracing. In 2009, the Fortress was transformed into a museum. Today, it is considered a powerful cultural monument - a 'spiritual anchor' - for the Tibetan people.

Other remarkable Tongji projects include the restoration and renovation of the modern architecture in the Bund Historic District of Shanghai, notably the China Merchants Steam Navigation Building and the design of the Public Service Center. The revitalisation of vernacular architecture in Zhejiang Province such as Old Haimen Street in Taizhou and Lai's Settlement in Hangzhou are also featured.

Comprising three key parts, the exhibition includes exploration of the University's first-class laboratory studies, past and current conservation research, architectural and urban heritage, traditional Chinese and vernacular architecture, and a 'historical environment survey and record' done by the University and its students over the past 60 years.

Tongji University's conservation program has been recognised by several awards in both China and abroad. These include the Holcim Awards Gold Asia Pacific, The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation, and the National Outstanding Survey and Design Industry Awards.

Envisioning Historical Place opens tomorrow, 3 July, at Tin Sheds Gallery in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney.

Event details:

What:Envisioning Historical Place

Where: Tin Sheds Gallery, Wilkinson Building, The University of Sydney, Camperdown

When: 3 July - 22 August 2014 (Official opening on 6 August, 6-8pm)

Hours: Tues-Fri 11am-5pm

Cost: Free

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