Colonized by the future: Shanghai under construction, 2003

The Shanghai that I visited in the winter of 2003 was a welcome change from Beijing, where I was teaching. The air was marginally cleaner, the architecture more adventurous, and the parks felt more alive than in the nation’s capital.

There is The Bund 外滩, the wide riverfront promenade whose curve resembles the gentle curve of a spine – fitting for a public space that can act as the central nervous system for the city. And also the Pudong area 浦东新区, which stares across the Huangpu River 黄浦江 with an expression of preposterous modernity.

Running alongside The Bund are a series of magnificent stone buildings constructed by the foreign banks and trading houses that rose to prominence in the 1920’s and 30’s. The buildings are especially precious at night.

What I remember most from this trip were the lots being cleared for new construction. The remaining brick and stone buildings appearing as terminally ill patients awaiting their turn. Tall skyscrapers loomed over the remaining landscape like colonizers from the future.

What do these places look like today?

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