Connor Yocum


Tilanqiao Community Forum


Tongji University

Professor Mei Qing




In a site that has had such a significant history of acceptance and cultural blending, a community museum has the potential to do more than present this history as an exhibition. Instead of displaying artifacts and their descriptions in an aim to remember the multicultural history through a traditional museum, this site has the potential to resist the modern development of Shanghai and allow the local culture to continue, preserving a people’s culture rather than remembering one. In today’s Shanghai, traditional longtang housing developments are replaced by the ubiquitous 30-40 story apartment buildings that not only change the way the city looks, but change how the people live. In traditional longtang housing communities, rows of long, east-west oriented longtangs are organized in a grid and enclosed from the street by a surrounding, yet similar ring of buildings. This housing complex abides by strict rules about the hierarchy of spaces, the gradation from public to private, the south-facing orientation to each row of buildings, and the commercial component to the residential community. In this project’s site, different from other longtang housing developments in the city, the longtangs are oriented north-south and originally faced east. Though similar in style and aesthetics, the concern for orientation doesn’t apply to these buildings because their original intended occupants were refugees and other foreigners for whom the guidelines of feng shui aren’t important. Further changes to the site, specifically the appropriation of lands to the Jewish Museum, have changed the way the buildings are being used. Traditionally, longtang buildings never face one another; an alley is the semi-private space of only one building – never two. As a result of the Jewish museum’s site line, one building was forced to change its orientation, creating a shared alley between two longtang buildings. Today, the site offers two longtang buildings, one made of brick and in good condition, the other in poor condition and not made of the historic brick patterns, but something that resembles concrete. Both share a courtyard between them that runs north-south, accessed by the main street to the north. Immediately to the west of the site is a high-rise development, with more, similar buildings under construction on the other side of it. These two stand-alone longtang buildings break the rules of traditional development in Shanghai and in order to be best preserved as a community museum, will be modified into a public market space that allows the local culture to be present. The project will renovate the existing longtang that is in good condition, and replace the other that is not in good condition with a new, but reminiscent building. Together, along with the courtyard space between them, they will provide space for commerce, leisure, trade, social engagements, and entertainment. This street-level activity that is so much a part of the local Shanghainese culture is being lost by the new high-rise housing typology. By providing the space, this cultural museum will help maintain parts of the local culture otherwise lost to urban development.