Archive for August 2011

OffCite Goes to China: Hutong

In this series, Christof Spieler gives regular reports on his trip to China for a special issue of Cite. Read more about RDA’s China initiative here, which includes a knockout lecture series in the Fall.

You walk down a busy street in Beijing: busses, cabs, mopeds, bikes, crowds. But then you turn into an alley—a hutong—maybe 25-feet wide, between two buildings. You pass a store selling groceries, a four-table restaurant grilling meat over a charcoal burner, a small workshop. But then the alley turns residential. The homes themselves are hidden behind lines of walls; occasionally, a portal opens into a courtyard, crammed with small buildings. There is life everywhere: laundry hanging out to dry, old men playing mahjong, kids running around, men loading a truck. The alley twists and turns; the busy city is lost somewhere behind you. As it gets narrower, you’re sure you’ve hit a dead end, but there’s a narrow way through, a path only six feet wide between buildings. After a few more twists, you suddenly emerge onto a major street again, back in modern Beijing.

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Deng Xiaoping billboard in Shenzhen. Photos by Christof Spieler.

OffCite Goes to China: Patron Saint

In this series, Christof Spieler gives regular reports on his trip to China for a special issue of Cite. Read more about RDA’s China initiative here, which includes a knockout lecture series in the Fall.

History is always shaped by the present, and Shenzhen’s economic boom gives it a different view of the past. In Beijing, Mao’s portrait overlooks the city; in Shenzhen it’s a billboard of Deng Xiaoping, who led China from 1978 to 1992. It was Deng who designated Shenzhen as a special economic zone in 1980, and his triumphant 1992 tour of Shenzhen cemented the economic reforms after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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Beijing Planning Exhibition, photo by Christof Spieler

OffCite Goes to China: Planning

In this series, Christof Spieler gives regular reports on his trip to China for a special issue of Cite. Read more about RDA’s China initiative here, which includes a knockout lecture series in the Fall.

In Beijing, like in most Chinese cities, there’s a planning exhibition. The centerpiece is a huge scale model of the urban core. Families stand around and see what their city will look like — the activity centers, the neighborhoods, the expressways, the transport hubs, the monuments, the parks. And in the surrounding galleries they learn what their city planners think is important to present: the Olympics, transport networks, sustainability, historic preservation.

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OffCite Goes to China: Park

In this series, Christof Spieler gives regular reports on his trip to China for a special issue of Cite. Read more about RDA’s China initiative here, which includes a knockout lecture series in the Fall.

Shenzhen is China’s prototypical boomtown. In 1980, when it was only a small fishing village, it was designated one of China’s first Special Economic Zones open for Western business. Just across the border from Hong Kong, it was perfect for companies looking to establish new factories. Today, the city has 10 million people (the equivalent of the Chicago metro area), with an average age under 30.

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All photographs by Christof Spieler

OffCite Goes to China: Colonials

In this series, Christof Spieler gives regular reports on his trip to China for a special issue of Cite. Read more about RDA’s China initiative here, which includes a knockout lecture series in the Fall.
Shanghai is unique among mainland Chinese cities: at its core is a large 1920s European city. In 1932, three international concessions—French, American-British, and Japanese—were home to 70,000 foreigners. Despite numerous demolitions, much of that remains today. The Bund on the Huangpo river is still lined with old office buildings and hotels, Nanjing Road has old highrises and department stores, the French Concession has tree-lined streets of old mansions, and north along the river there are still blocks and blocks of old two- to four-story apartment buildings with ground floor shops that could stand in for Paris.

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