From short finals into Shanghai Hongqiao airport the city looked like it’d been made in SimCity. The residential, industrial and commercial zones were plain. And the buildings were so uniform they looked like they’d been put together with three by three tiles. At one point there were archetypal nuclear and coal power plants in the same vista.
Our trip to the Urban Development Exhibition Centre reinforced the idea that magical central planning had made Shanghai what it is today. It had a massive model of the city centre that took up most of floor three ‘Master Plan Floor’. And an incredibly impressive exhibit that whizzed you through a tour of new construction projects with the aid of a half dozen projectors and a round room. For those so inclined (maybe two of you) I’ve uploaded some video of the video.
Certainly Shanghai’s futuristic infrastructure is impressive. There’s the Maglev train (the world’s fastest), a thorough and well functioning metro system, two world class airports, highways galore and high rises as far as the eye can see. There’s also a tower that looks like a bunch of Christmas tree decorations, but whatever.
Despite all the sparkle thing that has impressed us most about Shanghai is its spaces. Yes it’s a city of twenty two million people, but it doesn’t feel cramped up like Hong Kong. The streets are wide and many are framed by trees. There are parks and squares. Maybe it’s the time of year when many Shanghaiers fell to places like Lijiang, but it actually feels relatively peaceful. All that in combination with the undeniable modernity of the place makes it feel like a city that would be easy to live in.