Pauline Zhou

"To March Forward or Step Back, in the question of what will be of home?"

Section MS2, Kelly Spanou

Keywords: model-making, urbanism

The urban modernisation is happening more rapidly than we thought in developing countries, with invasions of high-rise buildings across vast amounts of land, which is the typical case in a grand metropolitan city such as Shanghai, the economic centre of China.

Due to complicated economical reasons, many old constructions in Shanghai have been demolished in the course of modernisation, and replaced by new ones, which tend to be gigantic towers for more capacity to accommodate a fast-growing urban population. Destroying massive old monuments have left the city without much to preserve, and a loss of a city identity into a new but strange concrete jungle. Or it would be fairer to say, a process that would eventually wipe out the memory and historical traces of a civilisation that once appeared to show a different image.

What is more, countless people are being moved away if not forced to, to peripheral areas of the city if their places of living have been targeted by government for a new prospective project. This is what is happening to a lot of communities that have been living in the Shanghai lanes and alleys neighbourhoods, uprooted and broken up. Although the aging issues of this ancient type of dwelling, the changing demographic structure of the residents, and the prevalence of new types of accommodations all might suggest that this old life in the lanes and alleys is outdated, many local Shanghainese still insist that they remain preserved as a cultural heritage, and inhabit those reminiscent of this pattern of life.

Will this traditional residential architecture of shanghai survive in today’s high profit demand of land use? And what of this low-rise architectural style with small façade made up of bricks constituting a different kind of cityscape, providing warmth, attachment, and a sense of belonging to its inhabitants, should it be saved from destruction or just disappear, piece by piece, with the epitome of the authentic shanghai life? In the end, how should we retain what seems the most precious?