If anyone had any doubts of the unplanned and spontaneous nature of fireworks celebrations in China, here is your proof.
On Friday night, a Chinese friend and I attended a lecture presented by the Shanghai Studies Symposium, NYU Shanghai and the excellent Rockbund Art Museum, titled "All Tomorrow's Parties, Episode 2: Shanghai Futurism," and we were both left utterly confused and disappointed. We were looking forward to a discussion on such provocative questions as: How do others envision the future of Shanghai? What new technologies will we see and how will people use the technology of today? How will the city of Shanghai work on the societal level; will we see the (re)emergence of distinctive micro-neighborhoods? Would these neighborhoods have their own competitive grass-roots creative houses and participate in augmented reality work and play? Or will neighborhoods become their own micro-Shanghai city within segregated, exclusive developments?
These questions were not answered. In fact, they weren't even asked! How can you even begin to think about a "Shanghai Futurism" without thinking of some of these possibilities? Sure, you can look to the past as UC Irvine Professor Wasserstrom and Urbanatomy editor Nick Land did with research on films shot in Shanghai, past expositions and graphic design and then follow this with an obtuse rambling on time spirals and the Art Deco movement but I failed to see why this matters for the future of Shanghai; as the city has weathered quite a few epic events in the last century alone I would then be worried for its future if I only looked at the past! But you don't need an advanced degree or a university think tank to ask these questions. I'm sure that you, dear readers, have many of the same questions or even more creative ones!
You see, I have a particular vested interest in this topic of Shanghai Futurism. I work in the designing of the future of Shanghai (and other cities in China). Many others do the same, some more spontaneously, which I often envy, because the work that I do is methodically designed, carefully considered and planned so that one day the general public can enjoy a space that is flexible and comfortable enough for those creative ambitions to spontaneously develop, or be influential enough to do the same in a physical place that is an urban park, a streetscape or a commercial plaza. It is often wished by those of us in our field who care strongly about the academic issues of spatial studies, wayfinding and communal-societal needs, that only if we could have an audience who cares as strongly as us to make the places we live and work more comfortable using innovative solutions that address these academic issues. This is not a wish for a particular kind of aesthetic (which is a means to an end; it should never be considered a desire in of itself), nor a flexing of the mind of the egotistical designer (we all are egotistical as a designers; it is inherent to a certain extent), but rather it is a wish that stems from the definition that design is essentially problem-solving, whether it addresses a problematic design of the past or it fills a hole that was not there before because it is something completely new and unseen and is needed by the public. These academic issues I mention are all possible to be solved, or be developed with more reasonable intent, in a future. A future, or futures, that I am hopeful will be better than the past.
Thus, it is very much my desire to experience how others predict what life and work will be like in Shanghai just over the horizon of tomorrow. I write this open letter to those who have a vision to share on our city, whether you are Shanghainese, Chinese or Expat, and not merely to relate how things once were and that's how things might be in the future. What are your dreams of tomorrow? How would you hope to live in your city of the future?
Writer of Landline Blog, and Landscape Designer in Shanghai, China
"上海未来主义"让我期待的是关于上海未来发展的一些真知灼见，特别是加州大学欧文分校教授兼上海研究专家Jeff Wasserstrom的讲授。在Jeff二十多分钟的演讲中，结合生动而多角度的照片，对比展示了上海的昨天和今天，论及了杂志封面的变化，交通方式的变化和好莱坞上海取景的流行化等，却甚少对于上海明天的畅想和讨论。Jeff认为上海将是未来之城，因为其多元的文化特色。另一位发表演讲的是《精彩上海》编辑Nick Land博士。Nick给我上了深奥的关于时间螺旋和art deco的一课。时间是连续向前的，而art deco在上海的实践表明了上海的现代化。在之后的讨论中，二人论及了上海和北京的区别，上海快速发展的原因和时机等，但是也没有更多的论及上海的未来发展，和上海将如何在国际舞台上扮演未来之城的角色，颇有些遗憾。上海的未来会有哪些可能性，会是怎样的发展路径，希望听到更多的探讨和论述。
I do not believe one can ever stop being a tourist. Perhaps if tourism means the art of traveling to places of interest known to many; perhaps then it is conceivable to ”run out of” places to see.
But does tourism mean more than this? How many people does it require to create a place of interest? One? Ten? A hundred? Do the places we live and work in constitute places of interest for sight seers?
This is Moganshan, a mountain about 3 hours southwest of Shanghai. It was discovered by expat Shanghainese in the early 20th century and became a villa retreat from the hectic life of the city. I visited here from the 16-17th of July. The bamboo forests were impressive, but, as I learned later at an ecological fair I went to recently, these bamboo plantations were a relatively new introduction. Previously, the mountains in this area were covered with pine and other evergreens. You can still see them in the valley below where this weed tree that is bamboo has not yet taken hold. Read More »
As I have myself experienced, what is articulately designed as a concept is so ever rarely built well in China. Compromises are made which may have been worse choice than the choice of building it at all. So I will give the benefit of the doubt here to the designers of the university portion of the expo because what was submitted to the Expo as a design didn't quite make it as built. As an example, the two projects above were a bit of a let down. The field of green towers ended up looking like this:
Area: 1005 sq meters
Design Theme: The path of life
Introduction: The Garden of Bridges is designed by Adriaan Geuze, a famous landscape gardener from Holland, professor of landscape architecture at Harvard University, and chief designer of West 8 city planning and landscape designing firm. In this garden, life is likened to a narrow endless path and also a labyrinth. The path leads to Nature, guiding you across thousands of bridges. Consisting of simple but potent elements such as bridges, narrow paths and bamboo, the design tries to give people a strong impact both in vision, scale and emotion. Every bridge will be passed as their locations are elaborately arranged to accord with the general layout of the Expo, offering different views from each, so that visitors on the bridges can appreciate the landscape.
Area: 1054 sq meters
Design Theme: The most primitive and truest behaviors of human in the variable and endless forest
Introduction: Maze Garden is designed by Martha Schwartz, an internationally renowned master hand and artist of landscape architecture, Lifetime Professor at Harvard University, has honorary fellowship at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and is chief designer at Martha Schwartz Design Firm. This garden is constructed with Xi'an's traditional 3 meter high black brick walls, which looks like a box from the outside. The space in the garden is divided into a series of roofed narrow corridors. Willows are planted in the space between every two walls. Over 100 little brass bells hang in the garden, making beautiful sounds as the breeze blows. When walking inside, visitors can not only experience the change of space, but also see the various behavior of others with the help of the one-way mirros set in the corridors.
Area: 1032 sq meters
Design Theme: Modern garden art displayed with Chinese landscape painting
Introduction: The Landscape Garden is designed by Catherine Mosbach, an outstanding French designer of landscape architecture; chief designer at Mosbach Landscape Architecture Firm; founder and chief editor of Pages Paysages; visiting professor at the Graduate School of Pennsylvania Institute of Art and the receiver of the 2003 Rosa Barba European Landscape Design Award as well as the Grand Prize of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). This garden gives visitors the experience of being spectators by expanding the garden's boundaries. It uses the art of Chinese landscape painting and gardening for reference, aiming at creating miniature natural sceneries which is similar in spirit rather than in form. This garden will fully display the traditions of gardening in a modern way in the ecological corridor of Xi'an International Horticultural Expo, 2011.
Area: 1002 sq meters
Design Theme: leave the garden, leave the hole, to ther other end of the world
Introduction: The Big Dig Garden is designed by Martin Cano, one of the chief designers of Topotek one of the most progressive design corporations in Germany, and has received a number of awards such as the First Prize in competitions at Wolfsburg, Tiergarten, and Eberswalde. This design takes the earth as the model, guiding visitors back to the world the imagined in their childhood, where digging a mysterious hole in the ground, is a means though which everyone can travel to the other side of the world. The design empathizes with visitors' emotions, building a multicultural backdrop for them. It gives people the experience of transitioning from indoors to outdoors and from cities to Nature. Furthermore, it shows the combination and transition of two different cultures, broadening the traditional conception of garden.
Area: 1012 sq meters
Design Theme: Poetic quality of garden space
Introduction: The Quadrangle garden is designed by Wang Xiangrong, a presiding designer at Atelier DYJG in Beijing, a professor and doctoral supervisor in the School of Landscape Architecture, Beijing Forestry University, associate editor of Chinese Garden; chief editor of Landscape Architecture; editorial board member of magazines including Landscape Design, Modern Garden, etc., honorary professor of University of Hong Kong, and visiting professor at Southwest University, Nanjing Forestry University, and Zhejiang Forestry University. The naming of the Four Boxes Garden (Si He Yuan) comes from the Four Boxes Courtyard (Si He Yuan). The garden is divided into four smaller gardens, symbolizing a cycle of seasons. The ground of the garden adopts a linear flow and the plants, white gravel and tiles are made of various materials. the design pursues an artistic concept and poetic quality, where visitors can take part in meditation and experience the garden, demonstrating the Eastern way of understanding and appreciating gestures.