Architecture BOOM

IMG_2975Having the opportunity to meet with Marshal Strabala I wanted to learn more about the architectural changes of Shanghai since art and architecture are so closely related. To do so I took a trip to the Shanghai Urban Planning and Exhibition Museum as well as online research. What I discovered is that in the past 20 years Shanghai has undergone a huge architectural boom.

The Pudong district which makes up the most iconic image of Shanghai only began developing in 1994 with the completion of the Pearl Tower. Prior to its construction the area was just farm land but today is one of the brightest, fullest skylines in the world. The area is dominated by 3 gigantic skyscrapers all adjacent to each other; Jin Mao 1999, Shanghai World Financial Center 2008 and the Shanghai Tower due for completion in 2015.

South of the Pudong district lays the Shangahai 2010 world expo site, another area which under went major architectural development. The buildings in this area are intended to be on the cutting edge of architecture. With the Mercades-Benz arena and China Art Palace as two of the most notable structures.

IMG_5161Other parts of the city have undergone drastic architectural development as well, although maybe not as obvious as Pudong or the Expo site. One of the areas that recently underwent a change as such is Xintandi. Xintandi is an area of Shanghai that used to be dominated by a Shanghainese style of architecture called Shikumen Houses. These houses resembled, in a way, a modern day brown stone. Over the years however the area became run down, until American architect Ben Wood stepped in to recreate the area. He designed the new Xintandi to have small ally ways and houses constructed in the Shikumen style in order to make visitors feel as if they were in old Shanghai.

Joseph Giovanni believes that “China has become the world’s experimental architecture lab, for both international and Chinese architects”. His belief is held by many as new structures pop up every day with never before seen designs, or they find better and better ways to recreate the feel of old China in a new way. When asked about his thoughts of the Pudong district Wood stated “It’s designed to create plots of land for monuments to corporate power, the global economy”. The same could be said for Wood’s own redesign of Xintandi as it is intended to exude an old china feel but in reality is covered with high end boutiques, restaurants, international companies and some of the highest priced living spaces in the entire city.


In contrast to these opinions others argue that the architectural boom is driven purely by the need to expand the city due to rapid population growth. Currently at a capacity of 24 million, the city has seen it’s limits expand outwards as well as upwards in the past several years at dramatic rates.

Despite the reasons though it is clear that in the field of architecture Shanghai is on the cutting edge and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. It would be interesting to have the opportunity to study this field more in depth to understand better what is fueling such a building boom and how it is predicted to continue to develop.