Last week, MovingCities visited Chongqing 重庆. Located in the South-West of China and at the confluence of the Jialing River 嘉陵江 and Yangtze River 扬子江, this metropolis is one of the PRC’s four direct-controlled municipalities [the other three are Beijing 北京, Shanghai 上海 and Tianjin 天津]. Chongqing is know for a variety of reasons, one for its nearly 30 million inhabitants, another, maybe less known, that it has Asia’s longest escalator [112 meter].
In our first set of pictures we look at the city’s topography.
While we were climbing and descending along staircases, along hills, arriving at random vistas and viewpoints, we remember why we like hilly cities. We like the aspects of opening and closing down of urban perspectives. Although the climatic conditions were not in favour of a full exploration – it was foggy/smoggy in the city that was recently as one of the 10 most air polluted cities in the world – we set course in and around the Jiefangbei-area 解放碑 in downtown Chongqing.
As mentioned in an almost ancient pre-MovingCities project called 7 Hills [a comparative study of Brussels, Rome, Lisbon, Edinburgh, Istanbul and Amman, all cities with seven hills, presented during the UIA2005-conference in Istanbul], the aspect of urban topography is in need to be revisited:
In a changing world we forget the city’s image, form and geography. This image reads an identity, structure, and meaning (…) and focusses on an intriguing aspect of urbanity, the skeleton on which cities used to get form and organization, namely topography.
All this stems out of an urbanity left unexplored by Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City:
‘The underlying topography, the pre-existing natural setting, is perhaps not quiet as important a factor in imageability as it once used to be. The density, and particularly the extent and elaborate technology of the modern metropolis, all tend to obscure it. The contemporary urban area has man-made characteristics and problems that often override the specificity of site.’
In this multi-level metropolis, with its urban landscape of diverse depths, we took the long and steep Huangguan Escalator 皇冠大扶梯, connecting the Caiyuanba train station 菜园坝 and Lianglukou subway 两路口. The escalator opened February 1996, and is 112 meters long – the longest escalator in Asia – with an incline of 30 degrees [source +].
During the days spend in Chongqing 重庆 we walked the hilly stretches of land, sculptured out of the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, went to the opposite riverbank and saw – through a screen of smog – the transformation of the Jiafangbei CBD-area topography due to the construction of high-rise towers.
Nowadays, the hills are seemingly disappearing, while the overall urban form, hardly visible during the smoggy days we were in town, is slowly loosing its topographic sensitivity and turning the territory into one vast urban mass.
Pictures by MovingCities