We interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast to announce my arrival to the capital of China, Beijing! Woo-who. Quite a trip that was. As some of you may know if you have read the recent New York Times article, this week is China's National Day week (celebrating the PRC) in which some 200 million people travel all over the country for a mini vacation to visit new places and mostly old people (that they know, not necessarily old in age). I had the audacity to travel to Beijing from Sunday, Oct 3 to Thursday, Oct 7; knowing full well the swarms of people I would find here. Read More »
Living in a city of up to 23 million people has left me starved for culture because the policy here is to obliterate the past (or, at least, recreate the past as some commercial construct/theme park). Recently when I was traveling to what is called the Nordic Lighthouse (actually a warehouse, but renovated and a pleasant area) I spied some of that culture clash from the elevated subway -- the bland modern encroachment of "progress" without architectural context nor significance threatening to stamp out the storied layers of the past:
It was this mind set that led me to the surprising Shanghai Art Museum, which, while not as exhausting as the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, is still worthy of praise (especially the bronze and ethnic minority folk art gallery). I visited the museum on Sept 18th. Read More »
On the evening of September 16th, Ahmed, a new colleague Scott and I made it out to the Expo, Pudong side. I would later learn that the attendance was somewhere in the order of 150k for the day; the evening being much less. This is a far cry from 500k during the summer, especially on weekends and obviously much less than the projected 6-700k expected during this week's National Day Week. It is very common at the Expo to wait several hours, up to 5-7 hours (!!!) to get into one pavilion, so getting into any here is quite an accomplishment.
I visited the Expo again on a blue-skied September 24th with Wa Guo who graduated RISD LA in 2009. She was with friends, and with my quick walking pace all over the EXPO, tired them out quite a bit for the city slickers they are 🙂 So I had the opportunity to follow up on many the pavilions that I saw previously only at night.
I had the good fortune on the evening of September 3rd to meet with a fellow 'landscraper' from RISD and from the Class of 2010. Sun Li, or, Li Sun as he was known at RISD, is here in Shanghai working for a new (since April) landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm called Integrated Planning and Design (IPD). The following day originally had me going to Suzhou with Ahmed from work, but things didn't work out and I took the opportunity to catch up with Li some more by going to another water town called Zhujiajao. Read More »
Yesterday afternoon I headed out to ShContemporary 2010, or the "Asia Pacific Contemporary Art Fair" housed in the Shanghai Exhibition Center as pictured above. This marks my first Art Fair, which basically means a whole lot of booths/mini-galleries of work being shown by their respective galleries and representation. It was largely uninteresting save for seeing the Korean sculptor Lee Jae-Hyo's work (which was written about in Sculpture magazine), Yu Guang with his (?) evocative and atmospheric illustrations and by far the most interesting of anyone else there, Yang Yongliang with these landscape collages of China's building boom. They are made to look like the traditional, historic landscape paintings but with a modern twist. I liked the work so much that I wanted to buy the album the gallery had but it was their only copy (tsk, tsk, poor planning) so all I had to settle for was writing down my email so that maybe I could buy it later (or I just have to go to Beijing). Read More »
Back on August 28th, I made it out to the "Old City" and the YuYuan Gardens. The Gardens, to which I leave the Wikipedia entry as adequately descriptive, covers some 5 acres of some very skillfully designed small spaces with such appropriate scale that these 5 acres seem much larger than they are. I somehow managed to enter the Gardens via the Exit, and hence, missed the grand entrance and their associated crowds until the very end:
This was for the best because I got to explore the quieter parts of the Gardens in relative seclusion. Read More »
How can I describe John Portman's work? The work that he did for his own house is curious, and the tower complex that he designed for Italy was provocative (if only it were actually built with white stone) but then he also has made some serious blunders when designing community complexes. Read More »
Arriving at People's Square, which I accomplished via the Red Line (Metro Line 1), was a bit anti-climactic. I was expecting some grand vista like that of the infamous square which-must-not-be-named in Beijing. Instead, I came out of the People's Square metro station into the usual blasting heat but surrounded in green. I met three people that I believe were pretending to be English-learning tourists from Hangzhou (though they could have been legit) but managed to politely decline their advances of going to a tea ceremony (I read on Wikitravel that this is a common occurrence with an end result of going to a tea house that costs the invitee several hundred rmb). Honestly, however, I was on my way to the Urban Planning Exhibition Center and could care less about a tea ceremony. Read More »
On Saturday I tasked myself with finding a reliable food source. That meant finding a Carrefour. I deemed it too far and on Sunday found another, higher quality supermarket closer to home. But Carrefour still proved to be a slight treat with their attempts to translate the meaning of certain products in the cereal aisle. If I were to ever create a band, I just might call it "Bird's Nest with Rock Sugar", "Pearl Powder" or "The Essence of Chicken."
I also bought some microwave diners which proved to be bust. That prompted Sunday's quest to find something of higher quality. I called an indirect family friend, Rita, who told me of City Shop and Element Fresh. City Shop is an expat supermarket and there's one not too far (a 15 minute walk). Somehow my feet did not lead me there today; I went to the Grand Gateway in search of Element Fresh and instead discovered Ole (and later went to Element Fresh). Rita told me that Element Fresh was on the ground floor, and, in European understanding, thought that meant the basement and not that the first floor as it is the United States. This is how I discovered Ole, which is a brand new supermarket of Whole Foods similarity (and for that matter, most other mid to high end Western supermarkets). Yes, it is expensive, but it's the only place I've found that has organic milk imported from Australia (which has to be safer than domestic milk...)
I bought this soup mug Saturday night because the apartment lacks any kind of cutlery/plates/bowls, etc. At Ole I bought throw-away plates, plastic cutlery for I think about 10 rmb. At least now I can have a pretty decent breakfast with bread, butter, honey and tea.
Next post will be on People's Square, which I visited Sunday afternoon. I think this experience of finding food has started to turn some gears in my head in regards to efficient urban planning (or how inefficient it can be)...
It was as if I was plucked from familiarity and dropped in the middle of a huge city without any reference point. I mean, I seriously don't know where I am other than knowing that I'm somewhere in Puxi. It will probably take a few days to get my bearings. I now have a map of Shanghai courtesy of the numerous Expo tables around the city.
When I arrived I was picked up by the company driver in his Audi. He didn't speak any English so it was an awkward car ride. He dropped me off at the company apartment which is on HongQiao Road (near WenDing Road). I can't make much sense of the addresses here; but I'm close to a major intersection that has several shopping malls in it, such as Metro City. Miss Fei Fei was there to greet me and she showed me the apartment and then graciously accompanied me to Metro City after I asked where the nearest place to eat is. She couldn't help me with where the nearest Tesco/Auchan/Carrefour is since she's not from around here (note: I went to Tesco last night with Ahmed at Jiangsu Rd Metro station). I'm going to have to find them because eating at KFC as I did my first night at Metro City is not going to be sufficient in the long run.
The Continental flight was very good and was similar to the UAE flight to Dubai. We had a dinner menu, real cutlery, and decent food. I think UAE gave us more snacks. The seats were cloth, had cranky tilt controls, had a 110v power outlet between seats and provided just enough room to tightly cross your legs. The movie selection (via touchscreen interface) was reasonable. I watched Clash of the Titans, tried watching 14 Blades (but couldn't due to confusing cinematography), Harry Potter 6, and Iron Man 2. The flight staff seemed a bit disorganized though. One attendant completely disappeared after I wanted to get rid off the remainder of my tomato juice.
Work at EADG starts at 9am and finishes at 530pm. I have to take the 548 bus to get there which takes 15-18 minutes (not including waiting time for the bus). It's either six stops from Hong Qiao Yi Shan Rd. Walking is probably never an option with the excessive humidity and boiling temperatures (the first night was around 35 C).
Yesterday was my first day at the firm which started fairly unhurried. I got a tour by several people and met with the international staff whom I would be working with most. The firm has some 160 people at it, which is the largest branch in China. EADG started in Hong Kong and was the first and oldest to move into mainland China (yes, HK is considered as distinct as a Taiwan). It's spread on two floors, the floor below the one I am on is where most of the production happens (and where the planning team is as well). On my floor there is also the graphic team which supports each team (it seems that each team is fairly independent from each other in terms of the projects they are working on ?), project managers, managing principals, a kitchenette, and a library (books and materials).
The day was filled with mostly introductions and presentations. The office (the international team?) goes out to lunch everyday and occasionally does dinners. We went the place above for lunch and then an Indian place for dinner (to which I will comment that garlic nan is much better than 'plain' butter nan).
Ahmed is the connection to RISD and the one who oversees intern development. He's been to critiques at risd and was a critic for our Kolkata studio last spring in 2009. He's the one who I will be working with for at least the next four weeks. I've been tasked to look into government plazas and the concept of weaving for my second day.