Shanghai New Towns

The challenge in designing the Chinese future city lies less in urban planning and resource allocation than community building.

Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis , Harry den Hartog, ed. 010 Publishers, 2011 (416 pp. PB, US $44)

One of the main impacts of the rapid economic growth in China is the structure of urbanization and the radical reset of balance between the metropolis and rural areas; in Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis (in English and Mandarin) released by the Dutch publisher 010, Harry den Hartog produces the results of a massive act of collective research about development policies and urban planning actions in Shanghai, China's largest city, in the immediate past and near future.

In 2001 the Chinese government launched an urban development strategy called the One City, Nine Towns Development Plan , that aimed to overcome the role of the concentrated metropolis to instead shift to the development of a multi-centered approach. This model laid out a plan for new urban structure with ten projected cities—really one medium-sized city surrounded by nine towns—with the aim of avoiding urban sprawl by installing a soft urbanization model in distinct but interconnected economic districts. The research tells the story of the plan development in the Shanghai area, and it documents the current processes and actions to build these new towns, using maps and other cross-referenced data to analyze these transformative processes.
Spreads from <i>Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis</i>
Spreads from Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis
The book is a collaborative production of writers, urban planners and photographers, both Chinese then Europeans; den Hartog edited the research and contributed essays inspired by years of experience with projects in Shanghai. He tells us the story of the Chinese experiment in the direction of new practices of Better city better life ; during the Expo 2010, Shanghai promised to put these new urban potentials on show, and indeed the Chinese model aims to be a concrete new form of urbanism to reduce the pressure of development on the metropolis and to extend the economic benefits to periurban areas. Some of the characteristics of this model, as well as the implementation details are clearly shaped, and in the first part of the book they are precisely delineated.
Cover of <i>Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis</i>
Cover of Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis
In the process, these new developments assemble along several emblematic city typologies that refer to western aesthetic patterns, aiming to achieve organic and recognizable characters (modeled after an Italian city, a Spanish one, German, Dutch and Scandinavian, and a Thames city are currently being developed). European and North American architects participate in all the project teams. Other cities are based on functional and strategic criteria for the economy of the region, as for example a city built according to ancient and traditional aesthetic, a harbour city, a green city and another that surrounds the automotive industry district.

These models are not fully innovative from the point of view of design concepts, but surely they innovate in the way they are applied to the Chinese-specific context, and represent a hybrid model between the state planning and the market driven development. Ambitiously, these new cities promise to be completely self-sufficient, without compromising metropolitan amenities, suggesting a model for (and if they are successful, concretely provide to them) comprehensive and satisfying lifestyles. In particular, and this is definitely not easily assumed in Chinese cities, all of these projects take into account the role of public and open spaces, and a lot of greenery. The book deeply analyzes these processes through several case studies which point out the success of some of the new communities, as well as the failures of actual ghost or incomplete cities.
During the Expo 2010, Shanghai promised to put these new urban potentials on show, and indeed the Chinese model aims to be a concrete new form of urbanism to reduce the pressure of development on the metropolis and to extend the economic benefits to periurban areas.
Spreads from <i>Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis</i>
Spreads from Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis
Indeed the most interesting theme of the book is to join this analysis with a wide interpretation about the spatial, cultural and social impacts and the meaning of such urban planning models. The projects described are breakthroughs in the sense of overturning traditional forms and processes of urban design in China, but at the same time they try to preserve and reinterpret that features connected to the local spirit of communities. To design thematic cities means to create stories immaterial to history, which can be a benefit by facilitating participation and inclusion by the new citizens. New public space is also a central element of the design strategy. So the main challenges these new towns face are in establishing community, and the construction of identity starting from a social tabula rasa; beyond the urban planning-specific problem, the book underlines issues and experiments related to the process of designing communities.
Spreads from <i>Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis</i>
Spreads from Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis
This topic is tackled through voluminous documentation that describes the context with detailed references as well as accurate design and project documentations. Moreover, several sections of the book are fully based on photographic essays that in an even more detailed way describe the New Town research contexts, and help in visualizing the urban transformation underway. The detailed documentation renders the book as an effective portrait of the difficulties of the different disciplines and stakeholders involved in such kind of urban development, from politicians to planners and technicians, to the citizens or the still missing citizens, and their challenge to act in this material and immaterial complexity framework.
Spreads from <i>Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis</i>
Spreads from Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis

Latest News

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram