“Three Pathways to Get Anywhere (Except When There Is a Dead End)” is a collection of essays, poems, and fragments that forms a constellation of a young architect’s reactions to East Asian cities, personal narratives of traveling solo, and musings on how the unique and foreign may or may not inhabit global practices.
MovingCities is pleased to feature a fragment – dealing with the urban transformation of Shanghai 上海 – from this recently published book by Berlin-based architect and writer Anna Kostreva, edited in close collaboration with Joey Horan, designed by Studio YUKIKO and published by Rough Beast.
Info, fragments from an accelerated city walk, pictures and preview after the break.
introduction [from the publisher]
Three Pathways to Get Anywhere (Except When There Is a Dead End), as experimental as it is accessible, details six weeks of travel through China, Japan, and Singapore in March and April 2015. With writing that takes both stylistic and thematic cues from the fragmentary writing of Renata Adler and Etel Adnan, Anna Kostreva poses questions from a perspective where intercontinental travel has become normalized and societies on the opposite side of the globe increasingly appear in our imagination only as quantifiable sets of big data. Why do we still want to travel, and what significance does the act of taking a trip now have?
Kostreva’s book presents an absorbing narrative through the mind and eyes of a young female architect interested equally in the state of modern cities as in their capacity to speak to those who visit, use, and live in them.
Through its combination of subjective revelation and nuanced critique of global citizenship, Kostreva’s deeply probing and thought-provoking writing positions itself within what art critic Peter Osborne describes as the ‘inherent hopefulness of travel’.
The publication, accompanied by photos and sketches of urban phenomena encountered along the way, is designed by the award-winning Berlin-based design Studio YUKIKO, whose work with the magazine Flaneur has been distinguished with the D&AD Slice Award (2014) and, most recently, a nomination for the German Design Award (2016). Studio YUKIKO consists of Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad and has been active in Berlin since 2012. Their work includes clients in the arts, entertainment, cultural, and fashion industries, with projects ranging from printed matter to album art to music videos.
a fragment from Three Pathways to Get Anywhere (Except When There Is a Dead End)
[by Anna Kostreva]
A rendering for the Suhe Creek development on printed canvas. Trees planted by the dozen in front of a closed mall.
A block away a neighborhood is being demolished. This situation seems a little doomed.
I join three others for a tour, led by Bert, on the accelerated city. He explains the Shikumen (Stone-Door-Gate) block typology as an international real estate investment and safe haven during WWII. No one would bomb Shanghai because too many allies lived there. Portions of the international concession redeveloped quickly into dense, three-story residential blocks for all types of Chinese citizens, with shops along the outside and alleyways inside.
These neighborhoods are torn down for luxury towers. Real estate companies hire people from neighboring provinces to do the demolition to avoid ties to the local community and government. I have a hunch that the three thirty-story towers will house fewer people than the soon-tobe erased neighborhood. The worst thing is that it lacks urbanity.
Is global building culture generic and boring?
Is it destructive to believe in a better city, a better life?
Maybe urban regeneration should not always be seen as rationally good. What does a better life mean? Burying traditional cultures and villages so people can work the register at a department store? Yes, it’s more stable, I guess. Should I want a better life for the people I am buying my dinner from? The man that pops rice on the street has a smart phone. Is he wanting? Who decides who’s wanting?
I arrive in Shanghai. Or rather, I emerge from an underground strip mall. I find my hostel in a nook off of an alleyway. It is what I expected, but it feels a bit harsh and used because it is badly insulated. It is among smaller buildings tucked beneath hyper-modern skyscrapers.
There seems to be an acceptance of architectural difference in Shanghai. Each building strives to look different from the next, embracing various styles, Eastern and Western. Truly globalized. Maybe this is affirmative, diverse, and progressive, or simply superficially cosmopolitan. Maybe Shanghai is a bit of a farce, tricking Westerners into believing China can modernize like the West. Behind the scenes – outside the city – it’s still China. Shanghai is a mask, a transitional zone, a threshold.
Currently, the tallest tower is 630 m high. Beautiful how it twists its way into the sky.
Ackbas refers to the Bund and Pudong as spectacles (in Guy Debord’s terms, when capital becomes image). Ackbas thinks the past is preserved in Shanghai not for its inherent value, but for its dialectical value. The contrast with the old makes the new more valuable. In order to accept skyscrapers as a new cultural manifestation, we must maintain a historical perspective, understand that this now is relative to a then. Indeed, contemporary life is culture, and the towers of Shanghai are part of Chinese culture. We must accept the force of the things we rebel against.
[extract from Three Pathways to Get Anywhere (Except When There Is a Dead End)]
Three Pathways to Get Anywhere (Except When There Is a Dead End)
by Anna Kostreva, edited in close collaboration with Joey Horan, designed by Studio YUKIKO
< Rough Beast, November 2015