As the Design-Build network so eloquently stated "To meet demand, and to house its emerging middle class, Shanghai has sought inspiration from the Western nations that once dominated the city.".
So we set forth to discover what's happening in Shanghai's "one city, nine towns" and so far have found that nothing much at all is going on in either Thames Town or Lake Mälaren.
Is Pujiang's Italy Town going to buck the trend? Well, no.
But it does make for a nice ride. Heading down the Puxi side of the river below Xujiahui, catch a ferry across and through the grime of south-Shanghai to Pujiang. Then a straight run North up the Jiyang road, past the new Aquatic center and a loop around the expo site with some great perspectives on Shanghai from the South.
Link to Route
Of course, no tour of Shanghai would be complete without cruising past a few monstrous developments and might I say these are some of the city's finest, lined up as if the cranes will pull of their covers to reveal pure residential monotony.
Across the river on the Sanlin Rd ferry and straight down a long suburban street-town with the typical steaming garbage piles, itchy dogs and cowboy babies. A couple of kilometers down on the left is the start of the Pujiang development.
... and yes, it's empty. Just like it's peers dotted around Shanghai it is an astronomical flop. Gregotti must have been so excited, the prospect of designing an entire town in China the way Italy would do it. How perturbed they must have been when the local hands started inputting their local craftsmanship. If only they knew at the time that nobody would move in apart from a few hopefuls, a couple of knock-off Italian furniture stores and a ginormously optimistic gym.
Italy Town is not particularly massive although construction is going strong like nobody has noticed. Nor is it a rendition of Lucca as you'd wish for, more of an expression of contemporary right-angle design complete with a not-in-the-slightest venetian canal lined with empty houses. We rolled a couple blocks, literally through a not-appalling modern art gallery (not that anybody noticed) and out up the number 8 Metro traced highway.
Shanghai's latest landmark is the visually aggressive Aquatic Sports Center - due to hold the 14th World Aquatic Championships in July. The complex is not-nothing, big by Chinese standards and currently under typical Chinese progress with swarms of hard hats being observed by the construction equivalent of train spotters.
They've only gone and built a new highway from the Aquatic complex up to the Expo site. Right now it is blissfully empty and super-smooth, curving up and over a new bridge with a pleasing perspective onto the metropolis.
Then it's up and a loop through the decaying Expo site (which we'll save for another post), over the Huangpu via the Ferry under the Nanpu Bridge and back along the north side. Home in time for a call by the Avocado Lady for some rocket and parmesan.