19 Feb 2015

Architecture and the underground Rat Tribe Inhabitants

Beijing China and the underground dwellings, housing mostly, poor immigrants (named Rat Tribe) that travel from outside the capital, dreaming of a better future for themselves and their families. We could give a passionate description of the way things are going around the world but we decided to give you an objective view, no emotions, description of this type of housing.  There is much to say, so we are going to continue the description below.  A video below, with one of the residents being interviewed.  Via aljazeera 

Floor Plan of an underground residence in East Beijing.
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A bit of history, these underground habitations were first constructed as air-raid shelters during the Cold War in the 60s, against the fear of Russian bombings on Chinese soil.  It is estimated that 300,000 people constructed more than 20,000 bomb shelters. In the mid 90s with people poring into the capital from around the country to find better work, saw a resurgence of these underground structures now used as "Affordable Housing".

Wei Kuan, an insurance salesman, says that he lives in a basement apartment because he wants to save money for a car. He lives in a 300-square-foot room, he shares with up to nine other men.
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The people living underground, are discriminated against and called "Rat Tribe” or "Shuzu".  A lot of the residents are migrants and are ashamed of even telling their family, where they live.  They are not entitled to any form of welfare that includes any monetary support or local schooling.It is difficult to gather a number of exactly how many people live like this, in the capital but it is estimated that their is as many as a million people making their homes below ground.

Guo Xiaolong - King of the Rats, He is in charge of 72 rooms and about 100 inhabitants.
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There are different levels of comfort in these homes but these are the main characteristics: no windows, only communal toilets, with showering charged separately.  The homes are in a grey area, they are considered illegal by the government, but they are needed to house the poor people that couldn't afford the rents of the cheapest equivalent homes above ground, that average at twice as much as the ones below.  Finding affordable housing above ground, would push these people to the periphery of the of the city that is too far for most to travel.

Chang Wanle - Cheated Right on Arrival.
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The positives that are associated with the homes are: the affordable price, the central position of the buildings in the city and the fact that the mostly arid weather in Beijing does not affect these underground structures that are kept cooler.

Chen Laxiu - The Granny Who Cleans the Subways.
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What do you think about this?  Do you see it as a good use of architecture?  Is it  a sign of things to come around the world?  Let us know in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

Du Xiuyan - Earning Her Son's Dowry.
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Li Yang - Underground Fisherman.
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Zhang Xinwen - The Artist.
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