CITYMAKERS Incubator – Wuhan Narrative

Published April 2018

From Dialogue to Action: Between September 2017 and spring 2018 CITYMAKERS China – Germany  supported the realisation of selected project ideas in the context of liveable city making. One of the supported focus groups worked on the larger theme of “cultural memory, heritage and identity” and their research work resulted into the “Wuhan Narrative” project. Read below more about the CITYMAKERS’- incubator  ‘Wuhan Narrative’ and the expert team behind.



CITYMAKERS Culture and Identity Focus Group

The Wuhan Narrative Focus Group (formerly ‘Incubator’) hopes to produce and reactivate discourses about the value of cultural heritage in today’s society and urban context as it considers heritage architecture to be an important part of a city’s cultural heritage and general urban identity.


Like all Chinese cities, Wuhan is undergoing a dynamic process of urbanization in which many historic sites are being radically altered or disappearing altogether. The few surviving German places of remembrance offer an opportunity to define a critical framework of discourse that encourages the preservation and analysis of historical memories. A city also reveals itself through the complexity and inconsistency of its develop- ment, which can establish itself in its productive discourse as a generator of an urban identity.


The Wuhan narrative culture and identity incubator team acts on the assumption that culture is at the heart of the liveable city and expresses the state of social, civil and urban development. It also represents the contemporary and historic values of a society. Cultural heritage is part of a city’s identity and contains“cultural narratives”that are embedded in the built environment. Architecture from all epochs can act as a carrier of stories and become an important witness to history. It can be read, interpreted and understood within the local community and by outsiders. The goal of the team is to make the cultural memory of the city visible to the citizens and visitors of Wuhan and to use the surviving buildings as witnesses to a productive debate on the issues of culture and identity in urban space.

An important lesson from this project was the realization that a great deal of the historical information stored in German archives is unknown to the public and simply inaccessible to Chinese experts. On the one hand, the language barrier makes it difficult for them to argue their case; on the other hand, contextualization requires specific knowledge of German history and Chinese circumstances alike. Without this basic information, it is difficult to convince the local administration in Wuhan of the importance of existing tracks and source materials. The administrative and political history of the German Reich in Wuhan lasted 23 years.


© YANG Fan
© Silvan Hagenbrock
© Silvan Hagenbrock


  • Dr. Eduard Kögel, Urban planner, architecture historian, publicist and curator
  • YANG Fan, Founder of  China Endangered Culture Protectors (CECP), Wuhan
  • Dr. Ines Eben von Racknitz, scholar, sinologist & historian, professor at Nanjing University
  • Silvan Hagenbrock, B.Sc. Urbanistik, CITYMAKERS China – Germany Editor, co-founder Kollektiv Raumstation



Wuhan Local Voice

Dr. Ines Eben v. Racknitz – How to preserve the old architecture internationally