Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NYU urban tour: Shanghai

If you ask people living in Shanghai, ‘have you ever climb the LuPu Bridge?’ nine out of ten would definitely say no. Even stayed in Shanghai for more than three years, I never heard there is a platform on the top of this river. Thanks Defne, as well as Giel, for giving us such a fully planned urban tour, offering us a great opportunity to view and apperceive this traditional and reformed modern city.
Our first site is Pujiang town, one of the nine satellite towns that are supposed to relieve the pressure from the downtown residential areas. Associated with the LuPu Bridge and coming Metro Station, this area is recognized as a large, under developed foreground. However, the 5 bn yuan’s investment and Italian architecture’s design do not bring us a bran-new, attractive idea of combining Venice and Chinese concepts. Instead, those gray, humdrum light colors give us an uncomfortable, disharmonious feeling, making both foreign people and Chinese dislike it. The impractical river, close style traditional design, and few residents extraordinarily criticize the urban development. The most amazing thing is the first-phase apartments and villas have all been sold out. One sentence by Professor Shi still swings in my mind, ‘Chinese always know to build, they do not care whether they (the houses) will be sold, they believe there will be buyers.’ The pressure from the house in Shanghai indeed needs newly developed apartments; but the market urges not only the land, but also something more deep, like culture and art environment, which will more reveal the urbanization.
Our second site is LuPu Bridge of Shanghai. If it is not the fog, the platform will be the best location to view the 2010 world Expo site that day. Besides the factor of traffics, this bridge outflows the aesthetics of modern architecture. Born under the foot of Mount Tai, climbing this bridge brings me one widely different feeling. Stand above the river, all the buildings are all in the sight. The bustle traffic is under the foot, unlike the steady feeling brought by a mountain; it is more like standing in the air of a noise city. Maybe this is just the one time experience, quick impressive feeling. Maybe it’s the result of fast pattern in metropolitan.
Our third site is Yangshupu Lu. I love the title ‘Urban Regeneration’ in the booklet. The old warehouse lying near the river, secret quiet location, and simple traditional materials’ creatively reused, all of this gives me a sight of perfect integration of west and east. This is a place full of creativity. The designer is so smart to use the stuffs, such as using the tiles to make the floor, the steel tube to be the handrail near a modern commode, and a large mirror to board and puzzle people’s eyes. In a word, the designer successfully adds the modern convenience into the primitive and simple traditional structure.
Furthermore, Mr. Giel gave us a meaningful short lecture. In his vivid presentation, I viewed the huge contribution by the artists, who successfully exert the contemporary visual art into public places. Like the pure white tube in the subway, that simple and particular idea of design solved the headachy graffito problem. We also cognize the operation of art in the commercial area, by advertising in the online world. I realize those artists looked like living leisurely, in fact, they burdened more social obligations than ordinary people. The traditional culture needs them, the urbanization also needs them.

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