Monday, January 08, 2007

A View From Above

This will be a quick take on something that was more interesting than I thought it would be - a top-down look at Shanghai. Most of these pictures were taken from the Jinmao Tower, a very tall (one of the tallest buildings in the world), very odd-looking building in the Pudong district of Shanghai - you can see the massive steel girders on the outside, arranged in a step pattern. The location provides look over both the Pearl Tower, and downtown Shanghai:

You can zoom in on the picture by clicking on the image, of course. Below is another view, slightly to the left. Some of these places will be familiar to the gentle readers of this blog. For instance, the central riverbank defines the Bund, the river flowing into it on the right is the Suzhou River, the area around alongside the Suzhou River could be call the North of the Bund Area, and the skyscraper with two immense prongs on top is located across from People's Park.

One thing that impressed me was the view of the Peace Hotel, the building in the below zoom with the pointed green roof. The road it's on is the shopping street of Nanjing Donglu, and the riverfront area is the center of the Bund.

The Peace Hotel was built in 1930. At the time it was the tallest building in Asia. Now it's a small speck on the face of Shanghai city. Here is a photograph of the same area taken from Shanghai's well- regarded M on the Bund restaurant - you can again see the green roof of the Peace Hotel. Personally I prefer T8 to M on the Bund, if you're going for an elite non-Chinese restaurant - more on that in another update.

Even though Shanghai is located at the base of the Yangtze River, I had never given much thought to Shanghai being a port town, just because it's mostly out of site, out of mind - as opposed to living in Oakland, where I saw distant views of the docks every day of the week. Looking down from the Jinmao Tower, it came as a surprise to see the constant flow of commercial boats, making their way through the city:

I also got an interesting view on the construction of what will perhaps very briefly be the world's tallest skyscraper. It will be around fifteen hundred feet tall, as opposed to the Jinmao Tower's fourteen hundreed feet. Both will be dwarfed by a tower going up in Dubai, that's just a few feet short of five thousand, two hundred and eighty. Note the tract housing, immediately aside the skyskraper:

Simple economics doesn't ever necessitate building these kinds of buildings, it's especially true in Shanghai. Like other modern ultra-tall skyscrapers, propaganda and projecting an image of wealth is the largest part of the reason for its construction, rather than direct economic concerns. This is especially true with the location of Pudong, which is essentially over-loaded and receding swampland, expected to recede even quicker with the Three Gorges Dam now holding soil runoff. More scary is, these buildings lack adequate earthquake bracing.

On the other hand, perhaps the propaganda does what it's supposed to do, as the skyscraper boom has been accompanied by a wealth of elite hotels opening branches in Pudong, corporations re-locating their Asian headquarters to Shanghai, and hyperbolic magazine articles about Shanghai's Blade Runner-esque skyline.

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