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[Image 1] Site photo of building #18, Image by Xinran Shen (2021).


[Image 2] Site photo of building #02,#03, Image by Xinran Shen (2021).


[Image 3] Site photo of building #02, Image by Xinran Shen (2021).


[Image 4] Site photo of building #01, Image by Xinran Shen (2021).

Re-measuring Lost LiLong

Creating a dialogue from the past to the future

by Longhua Gu


This brief article is about a practice-based competition project that focuses on regeneration of historic Li-Long urban blocks in a central heritage core of a city. It aims to share design ideas to address one of the most unique sites that is situated in a contemporary urban context with rich heritage remaining but has been partially destroyed or lost. To start with, I present site photos and an illustrated Nolli map which shows initial studies

of understanding historic urban fabric and existing Li-Long buildings on site. Then, the proposed strategic masterplan is illustrated in the form of diagrams by a sequential approach. This article shows the vision of the project that aims to remeasure lost Li-Long dimensions from the past, to rejuvenate the present urban fabric and to activate space for future development.


There are hundreds of roads, streets, lanes, and alleyways mixing and criss-crossing in the old town centre [1]. Many of those urban patterns have been hidden and destroyed under the rapid development of urbanisation [2].  Wang Yima is an alleyway stretching from south to north connecting with three smaller horizontal lanes. As one of the historic alleyways in central Shanghai, Wang Yima has witnessed the rise and fall of the surrounding urban area which gradually vanished into history, along with some ancient names such as Rong Fu lane, Heng de Lane and Jiu an Lane [3]. Along each of the lanes, there are building blocks which were mainly built around the1930s as residential and mixed-use functions. Site photos captured the current urban fabric of the historic building typology and served as visual records and design references through our early-stage studies. Those enable us to understand the scale of urban street and building characteristics.  As a new kind of Shikumen typology, these edifices were built approximately 24m in width, 18-20m in depth, and 13-14m in height, with two to four floors and they are made of bricks and concrete, covered with grey tiles on pitched roofs [4]. Big surfaces of the structure are covered with grey lime coating [Image 4], and some are painted dark red [Image 1]. On the side wall, red coloured bricks are layered in between grey bricks [Image 2]. Although many buildings have been abandoned and are empty now, there are architectural detail elements that still tell the glory of the past. There is a gateway that occupies two levels with an arch-shaped portico with a sculptured coin tripod which is in the middle surrounded by coral[Image1], scroll painting and lucid Ganoderma represent good wishes for peace, prosperity and good health4. Shikumen Gate which used to be the entrance to the lanes or ground shops is now walled up with concrete blocks and timber boards[Image 3].  We generated a Nolli Map referring to local survey statistics to illustrate the urban pattern of alleyways and demolished and surviving buildings [map 1]. This map also contains the information from the municipality regarding the hierarchical grade which is based on the local historic building conservation regulation. It reveals the alleyway pattern which inspired our design team to generate the proposed framework of the new development. Furthermore, it traces the dimensions of the building layout of the past, which then became the fundamental reference for the future building module.  

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[Map 1] Nolli Map, illustration diagram by the author (2022).

[1] Huang and Zhou (2015).

[2] Ju (2022).

[3] Zhou and Wang (2022).

[4] ‘Shanghai Yu garden Phase 2 Preliminary Surveying and Mapping Report pdf‘.

All Images

[Diagram1] Diagram by the author (2022)Urban approach Step 1.

Understand historic urban fabric, evaluate existing urban patterns and historical assets.

[Diagram 2] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach  

Step 2. 

Identify key alleyways to form the urban framework, retaining high-value historical buildings.

[Diagram 3] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach  Step 3.

Connect to the city network and introduce new alleyways to complete the retail loop.

[Diagram 4] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach Step 4.

 Infill retail blocks to bring back ‘Lilong’ urban texture.

[Diagram 5] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach  Step 5. 

Place commercial anchors in strategic locations, activating footfall and flow. Create a dynamic skyline and introduce a truly mixed-use community.

[Diagram 6] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach   Step 6.

Curate a sequence of ever-changing spatial experiences.

[Diagram 7] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach   Step 7.

Introduce sunken plaza to activate the B1 commercial area.

[Diagram 8] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach   Step 8.

Create a three-dimensional public network to provide flexible event space.

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Yu garden_Page_4.jpg

[Diagram 9] Diagram by the author (2022) Urban approach  Step 9. 

Restore historical urban fabric, establish a vibrant city quarter. It is an all-year round, 24 hours multi-faceted commercial landmark. It is a treasure trove to be explored. a diverse vibrant community for commerce, entertainment, work and living

massing diagram Aerial View final.jpg

Having been redundant and partially transformed through decades, most of the existing buildings on site are endangered and unadaptable for future usage. Responding to the client brief,our regeneration proposal[Diagram 1-8] would go for a radical approach that meant to demolish lower rated building blocks to release more space for forming a mixed-use creative urban community. However, alleyway framework and Lilong texture would remain and would be woven into the surrounding urban context. A new retail and a mixed-use building typology follow the existing building form and scale, at same time, they inherit the existing building language and characteristics. Public space such as sunken squares and pocket courtyards are placed in the node space and celebrate the protected buildings that remain in the scheme. Heritage resource such as building 01,24,25 [Map 1] has been put in new use as a theatre and a gallery to attract visitors and gather communities.  


This article only presents a partial design approach of the Lilong project and mainly focuses on early studies including a site survey and a visual photos record, along with a Nolli map showing the Lilong urban pattern and the conservation hierarchy. Then sequential diagrams illustrate the strategic masterplan principles. This article aims at sharing a practical vision of urban regeneration by using the case of the Lilong project. Despite the scenario that many urban regeneration projects are restricted by extreme demand of development in high density city contexts, there are attempts to trace back the history, to rejuvenate the present urban fabric and to activate space for future development [Diagram 9].


Yujie Huang and Xiaoping Zhou, Old Town Centre: My Old Home , My New Home (Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press, 1 Oct 2015).

Online Reference

Hefei Ju, ‘Shanghai Hidden Secrets‘, Jiefang Daily Journal, 2022-02-16 17:39 news.  (accessed 24 September 2022).

Jing chan and  Qiyuyu, ‘Finding Back Alleyway and Street 077: Wang yima alleyway in regeneration‘, Souhu Journal, 2022-06-19 22:45 Blog news. (accessed 24 September 2022).


Lao Zhou and  Wang Yeyan, ‘Vision Yu Garden Parking; Wang Yima alleyway text remained and legend. ‘, PENGPAI, 2022-09-20 07:43 Blog news. (accessed 24 September 2022).


Shanghai Marine Geological Survey and Design co.LTD., ‘Shanghai Yu garden Phase 2 Preliminary Surveying and Mapping Report pdf‘ (2021).


Published in Issue 2022

Ghost Dimensions


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