Hongshunli Big Socialist House

Hongshunli Big Socialist House (鸿顺里社会主义大家庭) was conceived in 1958 along with the wave of interest in people's communes during that year as described within several previous case studies. Initiated by the residents of the Hongshunli neighborhood in Tianjin, a major city not far from Beijing in Northeast China, the commune started with the construction of a dining hall and kindergarten. After receiving the encouragement of visiting vice chairman Liu Shaoqi, a plan was created to construct a multi-floor block housing building, which was published in the 1958-10 issue of Jian zhu xue bao (Architectural Journal.) In the journal, the building was described literally as a “big socialist family.” It is easy to see how the building sought to achieve that in looking at the plan.

The units aggregated around a large central courtyard, which was opened to exterior entry by pulling the two sides of the building slightly apart. All possible programs that could be collectivized were absorbed into the shared facilities of the building. Each housing unit included two bedrooms and a small balcony, while the public areas included dining halls, kitchens, restrooms, workshops, storage space, and facilities for the care of children and the elderly. Private living area only accounted for less than 40% of the built area, while collective living and circulation space occupied the remaining 60%. As such, the designers of the commune were afforded more liberty to define specific programs within the large amount of public space – rooms such as “breastfeeding room”, “needle-working room”, and “bank” appeared in the floor plan. Perhaps in alignment with the tradition of naming buildings after favorable phrases stemming from imperial China, several rooms were called the “court of prosperity.” Despite the ambiguity of their functions, it is clear that these rooms were emblematic of the idealized notion of communal living spreading throughout the country at the time.