Last Thursday I attended an evening on ‘Re-imagining Shanghai’s streetscapes’ where two speakers presented their ideas on how you can create greener space in a city, and space which gives more opportunity to people to enjoy time there.
I especially liked the topics that Damian Holmes talked about, with one of his main points being that urban space shouldn’t be just about cars, transport and buildings but also need to facilitate people and community. His line of thought reminded me of discussions I’ve had in Tokyo on the same topic. A city needs ‘pedestrian space’ to be a community. And Shanghai isn’t doing much of that right now. New developments focus on making things shiny, smooth, commercial and in such a way that people don’t linger or ‘make it theirs’. But the people in a city make it real: small communities, food stalls, mom&pop shops selling random things – but these are also considered the things that are untidy, a little rough maybe.
As Damian Holmes said on Thursday:
This city has been buffed up too much: too many rough edges are gone.
Nevertheless, one of the questions asked on this night was if people thought the streets were ‘friendly’ to people walking. I hadn’t really thought about it until then but in fact: for walking this city isn’t bad (assuming the pollution isn’t on dangerous levels!). Yes, there are lots of people. Yes, there are cars going past wherever you go. And yes, there will be bikes parked across a sidewalk occassionally, but overall it’s surprisingly good and I love exploring and just walking for an afternoon seeing where it takes me.
And those walks lead me to get to know the Shanghai streetscape much better – which is a mix of old and new. Tall high-rise buildings are mixed in with European colonial-style buildings from the 1920s & ’30s with of course the Shanghai lane houses everywhere else.
P.S. if you are interested in more pictures from Shanghai, have a look here
Update March 7: GreenInitiatives has now also published their own report of the evening of January 16th. You can read a detailed and extensive report here.