Shape of the City: Shanghai

(note: this was post 10 of 10 of a series on





The plane descends through smog the color of cigarette smoke, coasting over low-slung industrial sheds in a brownfield landscape sliced by highways and dirty canals. Distant cranes hover above endless rows of towers, fading in the haze as the tarmac heaves up to meet the landing gear. The gleaming terminal fades into your subconscious as you follow the bilingual signage to your destination.

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Suzhou’s outstanding gardens, unique architecture, and distinctly Chinese urban organization stand in stark contrast to the Western-influenced chaos of Shanghai.

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Though China is becoming well known as the home of startling, ambitious new architecture, the sweeping forms and epic scale of China’s new icons of modernity often appear only after extensive periods of relocation and demolition, and in many ways tastefully-preserved blocks are more impressive than new constructions, given the careful study and rehabilitation required to rejuvenate old buildings, as opposed to simply demolishing them and building anew.

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