City walk: 5.22.2010

23 May

Early Saturday morning the Shixi students boarded the bus parked outside their school, excited and ready for a walking tour of Shanghai. The first stop was Xujiahui, one of the largest commercial centers in Shanghai. The students talked about the historical changes and urban planning of the district, and used thier bodies to measure the buildings. They sketched, made notes, and asked questions, and were in good spirits despite the heavy rain.

After Xujiahui, the students made their way to the historic Bund neighborhood, which is directly across the river from downtown Pudong. There they visited the Rockbund Art Museum where they saw an exhibit on “Peasant da Vincis.” The organizing artist found many farmers from the surrounding rural areas of China creating machines out of found objects, creating everything from makeshift airplanes to mechanical human artists who painted on canvases. The kids were fascinated with these mechanized creations, and were equally fascinated that people in rural areas could be so creative. When asked, many of them said they had never been outside the city of Shanghai.

The next stop was the Tianzifang, an interesting community that has underwent some radical development in the last ten years. It started with a few artists moving into the neighborhood, transforming it from a strictly residential to a mostly commercial neighborhood. Now it is bustling with many artsy shops and eateries, and some residences have been retained on the upper levels. It has a very European vibe to it, with it’s narrow bricked pathways and numerous coffee shops. The students also visited the office of Zerolab, an architecture office in the neighborhood.

After Tianzifang, the students made their way to “The Bridge 8,” an interesting development near Tianzafang. It is a mixed-use small commercial area that holds events and contains the offices of many design firms. It will have some small shops and restaurants at some point in the future. The architecture of Bridge 8 is much different than that of say, Xujiahui… and for that matter, most of Shanghai.

The students got a good look at both the familiar and the not-so-familiar on their city walk. Hopefully they have been inspired to bring some new ideas to the table when they begin to construct the model of their future Shanghai.

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