After looking in close-up to the construction and the demolition of parts of Shanghai‘s Jing’an District, in our third and final installment we scan the skyline. And we ask ourselves, as a reader pointed out, what is the city concept of Shanghai? Is it something one can understand?
When one elevates oneself from the ground level, passes along skyscraper janitors, moves into elevators to top floors and enters the rooftops of Shanghai, one indeed sees a mix of hi-rise buildings and low-rise buildings and might question the purpose of this design. In order to answer this, one needs to move from observation to interpretation [and further to speculation, as we attempted in the Macau Urban Panorama Workshop (July 2009)]. At that moment, it is apt [thanks for reminding us Gillian!], to find parallels, adaptations, reinterpretations or re-observations in understanding the city as Michel de Certeau did in a chapter called “Walking the City” [pdf alert!] in his book The Practice of Everyday Life [1984, googlebooks]:
Seeing Manhattan from the llOth floor of the World Trade Center. […] A wave of verticals. Its agitation is momentarily arrested by vision. The gigantic mass is immobilized before the eyes. It is transformed into a texturology in which extremes coincide – extremes of ambition and degradation, brutal oppositions of races and styles, contrasts between yesterday’s buildings, already transformed into trash cans, and today’s urban irruptions that block out its space. Unlike Rome, New York has never learned the art of growing old by playing on all its pasts. Its present invents itself, from hour to hour, in the act of throwing away its previous accomplishments and challenging the future.
Shanghai is no Rome, but also no New York. It still has a past and is challenging the future. Here, again, is the present, an urban environment consisting of high-rise verticals and low-rise vernaculars.
Pictures by movingcities.org