Following my trip to Beijing, I got on the overnight train to Shanghai. In mid-August, the city was swelteringly hot and the air conditioning icy cold. The alternation between these extremes was at times grueling. While life in Beijing was frenetic and grimy, its generally low-rise profile made for a less dramatic cityscape. By contrast, in Shanghai the architectural statements were more demanding, more aggressive. Shanghai is a couple of decades ahead of Beijing. Here, a bold vision of the future had already taken root.
The Bund, looking across the Huangpu River to the Oriental Pearl Tower in the Pudong financial district.
At the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, located right in the center of the city on People’s Square, you can see a pristine model rendering of the city.
In reality, looking down on Shanghai from the observation deck at the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, the fabric of the city is in a much rawer state.
The juxtaposition of narrow traditional streets with looming skyscrapers is a cliché in the visual representation of Asian countries, but somehow it is too compelling to ignore.
The looping telephone wires follow you down almost every street.
Longhua Temple, the oldest in the city.
At the time, I was experimenting with photographs in which key elements of the composition were pushed to the outer limits of the image.
Behind 50 Moganshan Road is the M50 Arts District, which has dozens of contemporary art galleries. With massive real-estate projects surrounding it on all sides, this street has faced the threat of demolition since the early 2000s, though campaigns by architects and college professors have somehow kept it there.
The Fou Fong Flour Mill stands alone in this overgrown grassy area at the back of M50, where it once housed the nonprofit Island6 art center. It wasn’t intentional, but the flat depth of field in this image accentuates the ominous encroachment of the surrounding high-rises. The building was demolished in 2008.
I find the bamboo scaffolding that Chinese construction workers use to be charming. It became completely otherworldly when sparks from their welding guns cascaded down on it from above.
A nicely wrapped building site in the city center.
The descent into the subway.
Walking along the Bund at night, I was struck by how this shiny wall bisected the postcard view of the Pudong district and reflected the neon lights of Nanjing street.