A hypothesis of ‘being’ and of ‘mind’ that may emerge in a relational world, a space-time of montage, an interstitial realm of dependent origination



Goldsmiths, University of London





This paper written in relation to the digital art work, pages of madness, which is to be presented at GA04.  It considers a notion of  ‘being’ and of ‘mind’ that may emerge in a relational world, a space-time of montage, an interstitial realm of dependent origination, between so called body and so called external space. It is a notion that characterised intellectual aspirations of South Asian civilisation, over fifteen hundred years ago.  My concern is to investigate its contemporary pertinence in an age of cyberspace, in the context of net art.




The manifestation of pages of madness, is the culmination of a practical research that I was undertaking in 2003-4 at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Royal College of Art.  I wish to thank Dr. John Phelps from Goldsmiths for his technical input; and I am grateful to Shahid Sardar from Diverse Minds, and Dr. Richard Parkin of Barnet Psychiatric Unit in London for agreeing to be consultants on this project.


My ‘meta’ research investigation concerns contemporary pertinence and evolution of a hypothesis of ‘being’ and of ‘mind’ that may emerge in a relational world, a space-time of montage, in an interstitial realm of dependent origination, between so called body and so called external space.   In this realm a narrative may be elicited.  By narrative I do not mean ‘story’ or ‘story’ with ‘plot’, but a totality of a spectatorial experiencing in a particular space-time.  It is a concept that arguably tangibly manifested in art, architecture, and science, in South Asia, at least two thousand years ago.  The heritage of this practice, this thinking, can be found in what is left of rock cut edifices at locations such as Ellora and Ajanta, first begun around the third century BCE.  Around fifteen hundred years ago tantric art reached maturation epitomised by certain Ellora rock cut edifices.  The architecture, painting, and sculpture at Ellora could be considered to embody the philosophic outlook of a civilisation that aspired to a synthesis of




The legacy is also found in the texts of one of the earliest historic treatise on art and aesthetics, the Natya Shastra [[i]] - written possibly around the second century BCE and thought to be derived from a much older work of which there is no copy, the Natya Sutra – as well as commentaries on it, such as that of Abhinavagupta.[[ii]]  The Natya Shastra, envisaged an integrated art form, a gesamtkunstwerk, of light, colour, scenography, costume, make-up, gesturing body, sound and music.  Were it to be written today one could no doubt also mention the digital image, and other electronic and multi-sensory possibilities.


Historically speaking, one could envisage this South Asian technology ‘at the cutting edge’.  My concern is to interrogate the possibilities of such ideas’ contemporary relevance, and possibilities of re-conception in contemporary, and post-human space-time.  This investigation associates certain notions of metaphysical space in Asia with contemporary notions of virtual space that have been expounded by Michael Heim,[[iii]] Kevin Nute,[[iv]] and Chris Abel.[[v]].  Chris Abel writes that ‘Japanese movement space and cyberspace are topologically identical.’[[vi]] The veracity of such notions may be said to be further refined through the intervention of Lovelock’ Gaia theory;[[vii]] Margulis’ evolution of the notion of symbiogenesis;[[viii]] Pert’s research in neuropeptides and embodied intelligence;[[ix]] and Maturana and Varela’ auto-poeisis;[[x]] re-position the human, the sense of being, and the sense of mind. 


My overarching aim through, before and beyond the pages of madness research project – is, to find a visual manifestation and investigation of themes and issues germane to the project that interrogates: -


            how is the body;


            where the body begins and ends;


            how is nature;


            the dynamic inter-action of physical and ontological space;


a non-anthropocentric dynamic between human being, technology, art, science and consciousness;


how is the inter-action with spectators.


a notion of a work ‘being’ only in a spectatorial experiencing in a specific



A hypothesis here is a conception of narrative construction that is space-time centred rather than anthropocentric.  By narrative I mean the totality of a work at the specific space-time of its spectatorial experiencing.  This space-time incorporates the body that may instigate the work and the body that experiences it, in a dynamic in either case of, as Buddhism delineates, of ‘two but not two’.


Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei were thirteenth century Chinese court painters. The royal responses in poetry to their paintings, inscribed on the silk itself became part of the works. This illustrates Chinese cultural practice in the Sung and Yuan periods.  In Japan, Five Mountain Zen, which particularly emphasised the involvement of acolytes in worldly affairs, was deeply influenced by this practice. Consequently the shigajiku form emerged during the Early Muromachi period (1336-1573). As Joseph Parker has delineated, in 1410: -


A Zen Buddhist monk from Nanzen-ji...wrote out a landscape poem and had a painting done of the scene described by the poem. Then following the prevailing custom of his day, he gathered responses to the images by asking prominent fellow monks and government officials to inscribe it.[[xi]]


Fifteen individuals responded, writing on the painting to become a part of the painting.  One witnesses here a notion of an 'art of a spectator' - paralleling ideas in the Natya Sastra - and an 'art of dialogue'. This also manifested in other forms and contexts. Some of the haiku attributed to Basho are begun by him and then, at his invitation, completed by others. The collective poem of the renga, created in social situations is also pertinent.  New media poets such as Miekal And and Maria Damon continue this practice today in works such as pleasureTEXTpossession.[[xii]]  Waka were created at poetry parties. Cha-no-yu (the tea ceremony) is an art form that stems from social function. I would be happy to receive any responses to my practice and writing. These responses may find themselves incorporated into a further practice.


pages of madness considers architecture of text-image-sound, where text is sometimes image, or image is sometimes text. Mary Ellen Solt, in her study of concrete poetry, acknowledges that the form evades easy definition.  However she confirms that the concrete poet is concerned with establishing a new relationship to space (the page or its equivalent) and/or to time (abandoning the old linear measure).[[xiii]]  Michael Heim believes the technology and technological practice of cyberspace may also be a modus operandus to engender such spiritual centres or, borrowing from Zen teacher Daisetz Suzuki, ‘psychospheres’.[[xiv]]  He correlates four principle qualities of the tea ceremony with features of cyberspace, suggesting that the dynamics of the ceremony may be a guide for developing a sense of place.  Given the omnipresent and almost all pervasiveness of information technology, of the internet and the realm of cyberspace, and given the tantric, animist and buddhist notions of all phenomena being sacred, the practical investigation of cyberspace designers such as Heim will be of ever-increasing importance in generating virtual, spiritual centres or psychospheres.  Kunio Komparu - discussing both the tea ceremony and the noh theatre, as well as intimating life in general - believes that 'elegance is born when the ordinary is abbreviated, concentrated, and reduced to essentials…eventually leading to ma'.[[xv]]  Ma connotes space-time, an emptiness that is full of presence, an interval, a break, a rest.  While Heim discusses this in terms of the practice of cyberspace designers, it seems plausible that net artists - without commercial constraint - may initially be the most proliferous in developing such tectonics of cyberspace; creating, virtual rest spots, intervals, breaks amongst the morass that increasingly suffuses cyberspace.


The virtual body in pages of madness may be perceived as mine, albeit mythologized and mediated – like a Roland Barthes autobiography - by digital technology.  The physical body may be perceived in pages of madness as a spectator.  She can participate in the work through deciding at what speed s/he reads the work. I know that some people contemplated a single text-image for long periods like in a physical gallery, while others clicked through quite quickly, with the short attention spans that are characteristic of conventional web site/page inter-actions.  However the random aspect of the images means there are several viewings possible.  In fact the permutation of text and image would take over one hundred million spectator lives to view:  ‘There is no absolute time, only the ever-changing now’.[[xvi]]  She can also participate in the work through email me back responses, to the work.  These responses are highly significant for me and I use them to feed into the next work I am doing on the theme, asylum.  In a sense this is a work in continuum.  However more important than interaction by the pushing of buttons on a keyboard, is the sense of relationality: of a work that exists in a space-time of dependent origination.  In other practices, involving tangible physical embodiment, such as furniture, or garden installations, the furniture that my collaborators and I have begun designing and creating comes into being through its manipulation and shaping by those who buy it.[[xvii]] 

pages of madness is formal experimentation in response to medical studies which conclude that because of racism black people in the United Kingdom are many times more likely than white to experience mental illness. With regard to the impact of racism in British society, Professor Robin Murray, from the (British) Institute of Psychiatry, believes that the experience of black people in the U.K. almost drives them mad.  I can only speculate as to what the experience of black people migrating to other parts of Europe, (including Italy) may have on their mental health.  pages of madness as mentioned, is the first in a series on the theme, for gallery and web. The particular theme of the second, entitled asylum, relates to lives of those who live on margins of the particular societies they inhabit, such as those who seek asylum. 


About the Author:

ajaykumar is a ‘poly-tekhne-kian’ and academic at Goldsmiths, University of London. He began in the sphere of performance research, which organically evolved into concerns with composition of photographic, cinematic, and eventually digital image, in relation to ontology.  More about his practice can be found at www.ajaykumar.com




1 Bharata: The Nātyaśastra, translated by Rangacharya, Adya, New Delhi, Munshiram, 1996

2 Raniero, Gnoli.  The Aesthetic Experience according to Abhinavagupta, Rome, Is.N.M.E.O. 1956; and second edition: Varanasi, Chowkhamba, 1968


Ingalls, Daniel, Masson J, and Patwardhan, M (trans): The Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard, 1990


[1] Heim, Michael. ‘The Virtual reality of the Tea Ceremony’ in Spiller, Neil (ed). Cyber_Reader, London, Phaidon, 2002, pp286-291

[1] Nute, Kevin. ‘Ma’ and the Japanese Sense of place revisited: by way of Cyberspace., published on the world-wide web: http://web1.arch.hawaii.edu/events/EW99/pdfs/nute.pdf

[1] Abel, Chris. Architecture and Identity: towards a global eco-culture, London, Architectural Press, 1997

[1] Ibid, p.67

[1] Lovelock, James.  Gaia, Oxford, OUP, 2000

4 Margulis, Lynne.  Symbiosis in cell evolution, 2nd Ed. San Francisco, Freeman, 1993

[1] Pert, Candace.  Molecules of Emotion, London, Pocket, 1999

[1] Maturana, Humberto and Varela, Francisco.  Autopoiesis, and Cognition: The Realization of the Living, Boston, Reidel, 1980

[1] Parker, Joseph.   Zen Buddhist Landscape Arts of Early Muromachi Japan, New York, SUNY,


[1] see http://www.cla.umn.edu/joglars/pleasuretext/pleasuretext.html

[1] Solt, Mary Ellen (ed). Concrete Poetry: a world view, (Bloomington, Indiana University Press,


[1] Heim, Michael. op cit. p288

and Suzuki, Daisetz. Zen and Japanese Culture, New York, Princeton UP, 1959

[1] Komparu, Kunio. The Noh Theatre, New York/Tokyo, Weatherhill/Tankosha, p74

[1] Nute. op cit

[1] See www.shapes-design.com










A City in Harmony with Nature!


Sahba La’al, Architect

Steffen Heise, Modeling

University of Michigan, 3D Laboratory, Virtual Reality


The air space above the city has been ignored as habitable space. The city shall transcend the earth and make obsolete current shallow two-dimensional urban design methods and idioms, and adopt a three-dimensional, flexible and regenerative­ approach to city planning and urbanism.  The beauty and functional aesthetics of the Aerial City will be the regenerative integration­ of the city and nature, a place where architecture and nature are equally emphasized in a visually symbiotic relationship.

The physical and intellectual evolution of humans and indeed architecture seems to point from a simple, static, unresponsive phenomenon to a complex, flexible and regenerative organism which may behave like nature.  How can this be possible­?  Is it at all conceivable that human­-made environments can evolve to regenerative integrated with nature?  Is there a form of city that reflects such ideas?  This friendly band of atmosphere (1,000 to 5,000 feet ), rather than “outer space” is the core of this proposal for a suspended­ city called “Aerial City”.

Parks, recreational­ areas and farms will be integrated inside and outside the boundaries of three main structures; residential, cultural and administrative, to suspend the city.

New methods of seeing horizons shall open to Aerial Urbanism.

The panoramic view from such heights will signal the beginning of an era in which the true image of our planet is visually imprinted into our consciousness.  Views from the Aerial City will be similar­ to those from an airplane, yet, available every day to everyone.  We could live in space without leaving the earth!  The Aerial City could be the next evolutionary step we humans take in order to create a living urban space truly in harmony with nature­.

In an Aerial City this fantastic sense of harmony can be recreated in a display of colors in everyday urban spaces.  Large areas of orange, red, yellow, and blue could be displayed during winter months or as complementary colors to that of green for spring, orange for summer and purple for fall as a type of color dialogue between city and nature.

Within an Aerial city, it is possible to experiment with color and form with the participation of the inhabitants to create large-scale paintings and sculptures.  These collective works of art could be hundreds of feet in height and width which can be relocated and replaced by the will of the people.  This could be called “a living art” whereby inhabitants inspired by nature, celebrate life by using the city as a means and place to create art.  Aesthetics and search for beauty must be a part our technological efforts to integrate human life into the life of the planet.  City Planning must be integrated with architecture, painting, sculpture and other arts. Any environmental movement must encourage an urban life that integrates itself into the environment and preserves our planet and its plant and animal habitat.  I propose that this effort will evolve into a way of seeing both the planet and ourselves, and will create a way of life that translates itself into a regenerative and living art through creation of the city.  The Aerial city will become a vehicle by which such advances can be possible and where large scale environmental / aesthetic decisions can be collectively made.

The Aerial City is a technical tool which will position us where we can have a symbiotic relationship with our environment. Visual possibilities of an Aerial City are as exciting and interesting as living in a space orbital station.

The customary worm’s eye view which is common in our conventional city will be replaced with a bird’s eye view.  It may well be that this panoramic view, in time, will paint a holistic picture of our natural environment in our consciousness





Spatial Forms Generated From Shao Xing Culture


Zhang Kun, Wang Bowei

College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092



Abstract: Shao Xing City has a long history of 2500 years. Shao Xing is famous for its densely covered canals, Wu Peng boat and stone bridges. By using GIS(Geographic Information System) and 3D modeling techniques, this paper transformed Shao Xing identities into a unique spatial forms.

Keywords: Shao Xing, GIS, Generate


1. Shao Xing City


Shao Xing City is located to the south of Hang Zhou Bay, to the north of Huiji Mountain, to the east of Hang Zhou City and to the west of Ning Bo City.


Shao Xing was founded in 490 B.C, it has 2500 years old. This city was famous for its numerous canals and bridges. The statistic in 1911 showed that, within the city area of 8.3 km2, there are 33 canals, 229 bridges. If plus the moat, the total length of canals is 60 kilometer, the density is 7.3 kilometer/km2; And the density of bridges is 21/km2.

The looks of Shao Xing has changed nowadays, it has been a population-dense, traffic-busy modern city. People no longer use canals as the traffic route as before, a few Wu Peng boat scattered in the canals just as exhibitions for the tourists. In fact, the number of canals and bridges has reduced much. The well-preserved canals and bridges is located in An Chang town, which is 18 kilometers north-west to Shao Xing. In An Chang town, there is a east-west direction canal, which is 1780 meters long, 8~16 meters wide, with 17 stone bridges bestriding the canal.


figure 1. Wu Peng boat


It is not true yet that Shao Xing city has broke the link with its culture background. In the centre square of Shao Xing, I have seen two types of culture inheritance. One type is modern and tradition live side-by-side, as shown in figure 2. The modern mansion seems to suggest the advancement of Shao Xing city, while the old tower shows the history and memory of this city.

figure 2. mansion and tower


Second type is modern and tradition live consubstantially. As shown in figure 3, the extraordinary building is the Shao Xing Theater, which occupied 20,000 m2. The form of the theater was designed according to the Wu Peng boat. It has a modern body and traditional spirit.

figure 3. theater

Then, there emerges a question: how do we keep a city’s identities in the process of urbanization and modernization?


2.Generative Art


As a new developed method, Generative Art brings us a new creative thinking. From 1998, the Generative Art International Conference was held in Italy every year. As the Chairman of each conference, Professor Celestino Soddu gives high praise to Generative Art: “Generative Art has opened a new era for designing and industry manufacturing……by the aid of the computer, mankind explored their creativity greatly……people create harmony code and use these code to break a new space between science and art.”


It is difficult to give a definition to Generative art, for it involves a large domain (architecture, industry design, computer graphics, music etc.), abundant ideas (analogy, complex system, identity, random, infinite etc.), and numerous techniques (L-system, cellular automata, artificial intelligence, evolve algorithm etc.).


The study of Generative Art in Architecture include such a task, that is “ how to keep the identity of a city? ”. Celestino Soddu has done much research in this area, he has try to extract the identities of Hong Kong, Washington city, then translate these identities into codes and at last use these codes to generate new buildings.


The aim of this paper is also to extract identities of Shao Xing City, and use the identities to construct new spatial forms, but the method is unique.


3.Shao Xing Identities


Canals, bridges and Wu Peng boat is a tightly-linked triunity. Canal is the most importance element, without canals there are no bridges and boats.



I visited the famous Bazi Bridge in Shao Xing city, Bazi Bridge was built in 1256, it is the oldest bridge in Shao Xing. Figure 4 shows the model of Bazi bridge, which is shown in Shao Xing museum.

figure 4. Bazi Bridge model

There are many other style bridges in Shao Xing, but what I am most interested is the arch shape of bridges, as shown in figure 5, there are many styles like circular arc, ellipse arc, rectangular shape, long span, short span and so on. I think it is an interesting experience sitting on Wu Peng boat crossing different arches and hearing the talks of the people on the bridge.


figure 5 arch styles of bridges


3.2 Canals


It is essential to study canals on a map, because map can show the location and spatial distribution of the canals, it will give us a whole view other than the partial view like a tourist.


It is lucky that I found a canal map in Shao Xing museum, as shown in figure 6. This map was drawn in 1892, it not only drew the canals and streets, but also marked all the bridges. It is a shame that in 21 century with highly-developed cartography techniques, I can not find another detailed map like this for Shao Xing canals.


figure 6. old map of canals


It can be seen from the map that the canals spread out like cobweb. In ancient time,  canals belong to the city’s traffic system, people use the canals to travel and transport goods. Let us imagine a boatman steering a Wu Peng boat along the canals many years ago, what he thinks? Subconsciously, he may wondering which route is the shortest one to the destination? His question can be answered now using GIS techniques.


4. GIS Models


With the development of GIS (Geographic Information System), printed map can be  changed to digital map. Digital map can provide much more information by query and analysis (like path find).


In order to use the GIS analysis function, I digitized above map in computer. Canals and bridges are recorded as vector data, vector data use coordinates to represent object’s shape and location. Canals is represented as line symbol and bridges as point symbol. Figure 7 shows the digital map.


In GIS, attribute information are stored in the table, information like age, material, arch shapes can be saved in table. The arch shape is my favorite attribute, I stored the information in table using index, that means the geometry shape of the arch is stored in outside file, and the table just stores a index to the file.


figure 7. digital map


5.Generate Spatial Forms


5.1 Random Points and Shortest Path

In order to simulate the boatman steering in the canals, I randomly choose two points in the canals, one point serves as start point, another serves as target point. Suppose a Wu Peng boat starts off from the start point to the target point, the route should be the shortest one.


I write a programme to fulfill above task, below is the steps:

(1) randomly select 2 points in the maps extent, find out the nearest canals to the given points, set edgeflags on each canal.

(2) execute find path task to search the shortest path between two edgeflags.

(3) select the result path and loop through each bridges to find out bridges which locates on result path.

(4) if no bridges or just one bridge was found, goto step (1), else read arch shape attribute in the table and write to a file.


figure 8. path find


The shortest path is not the aim of this programme, but the bridge’s arch shape! Every time the programme will export a randomly queued array of arch shapes.


5.2 Lofting


This paper uses lofting to produce the spatial forms. Loft object is two dimensional shapes (cross-sections) extruded along a path. Here the arch shapes serves as the cross-sections, and a straight line serves as the lofting path.


Lofting is implemented in 3DS MAX software, I write a script programme which reads the arch shapes into the 3D scene and arrange them along a straight line. As shown in figure 9. But it is a pity that 3DS MAX did not support lofting using script, so I have to loft and set the parameters by hand. Figure 10-11 shows the loft result and some deformations added to the loft object.

figure 9. cross-sections



figure 10. loft


figure 11. deformations




This paper extracts the bridge arch shapes as the identity of Shao Xing culture, by the aid of GIS and 3D modeling techniques, this paper creates a unique spatial forms which is trying to express the happy feeling of crossing bridges on the netted canals.








[1]Bogdan Soban,”Games Coincidence as the Base of Casino Atmosphere Design Using Generative Approach”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[2]C.M.Herr,”Using Cellular Automata to Challenge Cookie-Cutter Architecture”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[3]Hong-Sheng Chen,”Generation of Three-dimensional Cellular Automata”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[4]Jeffrey Krause,” Reflections:The Creative Process of Generative Design in Architecture”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[5]Juan Romero,”Artificial Music Critics”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[6]Maria Goga,”Aesthetic Analyze of Computer Music”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[7]Guenther Doerner,”A Step towards a General Tool for Generative Design”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[8]Daniel Bisig,”BioSonic-Interactive Growth System”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[9]Philip Galanter,”What is Generative Art?Complexity Theory as a Context for Art Theory”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[10]Robert J.Krawczyk,”Exploring the Massing of Growth in Cellular Automata”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[11]Enrica Colabella,”Code,a password to infinite”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[12]Andrea j.stein,”MusicL”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[13]Mauro Annunziato,”Sensitive Painting”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[14]Ole Werner,”Breeding new designs The use of morphing algoruthms in design computation”, proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[15]Sun Chengyu,”Higher or Denser?”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[16]Tang Zhong,”Generative Design of Chinese Pagodas”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[17]Zhang Kun,”Computer Aided Design of Ming Chair”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[18]Anna Chupa,”Generative Texture for Animation”,proceedings of GA1999,Milan,1999

[19]Celestino Soddu,”Recognizability of designer imprinting in Generative artwork”,proceedings of GA2003,Milan,2003

[20]Celestino Soddu,””La Citta’Ideale”Generative Codes Design Identity”,proceedings of GA2002,Milan,2002











Shanghai Keeps its Identity in the City Renewal


Prof. Tian YunQing, MArch

Department of Art & Design, Shanghai University

e-mail: tianyq@vnet.citiz.net





Shanghai is the biggest city of China and is being transformed from one of the biggest industrial centers into an open, multi-functional economic center. Under the slogan " a new look for the city in one year, the astonishing changes in three years ", the great change has taken place in the urban reconstruction and redevelopment. Architects and urban planner have to put more attention to create an identity of Shanghai in the city renewal. 

The city and its Identity

Shanghai is the biggest metropolis of China.  In 2000, its population amounts to 14.7 million, with a territory of 6340.5 sq. km.  Since last ten years, the industrial structure of Shanghai is undergoing a great change.  The tertiary industry, finance, commerce, trade, communication, real estate and other service sectors are playing a more and more important role in the city's economy.  Shanghai is being transformed from one of the biggest industrial centers into an open, multi-functional economic center.  The opening policy and reform in the 1980s and further in 1990s brought Shanghai a brand-new start and provided much opportunity for the urban construction.

 F1         F2   

In the history, the city and architecture of Shanghai are deeply influenced by intercultural context, and today are undergoing a significant and rapid transformation.

The forming of Shanghai city depends on four resources: the geo-graphical condition; the geo-political factor; the geo-economical factor, the living style and quality.

In China, the most Chinese cities have a very long history but were not changed greatly during the developing course until the recent economical impact.  Today, the physical structure of the Chinese society is undergoing an unprecedented rapid, extensive and profound transformation.  In this course, the philosophy, the sense of value, religion, geography and others have played a very important role, which forms or loses the identity of Chinese cities.

In Shanghai, many radical changes happened for last 50 years.  The city is gradually transformed from a self-sufficient economy to an open economy, from an industrial city to a post-industrial city, from low-rise with medium density to a high density and crowded city.  For last 50 years, because of the rapid transformation from a semi-feudal and semi-colonized society to a modern one, the city is suffering some serious problems.  In one hand, a strong government control for the economical development is revealed.  In other hand, market oriented economy is playing a more and more important role in daily life.  The living style is undergoing a radical change.  It has brought a conflict between planned and random development, and this situation will generate confusion in urban planning and construction.

F3                    F4   

The identity of Shanghai contains two aspects; one is the form, material part, that we can see it, includes architectural forms, space shape, style and features of region; the other one is, that we cann’t see it, mode of the association of the inhabitants, the urban fabric and characteristics of the community structure.

The city Renewal and How to Keep its Identity

The city of Shanghai developed very rapidly. In 1950s, the urban area of Shanghai was 82.4 square kilometers, by the end of 1980s, it was 748.71 square kilometers and in 2000 it is 3924.24 square kilometers. Since early 1990s, Shanghai has already set up a strategy for urban development. One program of all is planned by the Urban Planning Bureau to preserve the whole central city as a historical center, at the same time, 398 buildings are included in a list for historical preservation, 11 historical areas are listed for the preservation of its fabric and urban features.  There are altogether 234 complete historical neighborhoods, of which 22 historical blocks are formed, and 440 historical architectural groups, covering an area of 10 million sq.m.  According to the program, 4 historical and cultural towns, 3 scenic and tourist zones, and 2 natural reserves are classified in the suburbs.  A multi-level protective and development mechanism is thus established.  In the course of large-scale construction and development under the circumstance of rapid renewal and regeneration of the old city, efforts have to be made for the preservation of the housing and residences with historical and cultural significance, and the preservation of the features of the historical area.  Because of the profit driven system of the urban administration, the urban renewal has destroyed a lot of old housing.  The traditional urban fabric is undergoing a rapid transformation, which has made Shanghai a city similar with other cities elsewhere in the world.  The identity of the city is gradually losing.  Since last 20 years, with the market economy and the commercialization of the professional architect, a lot of old buildings with qualified craftsmanship are being replaced by crudely constructed masses.  Since middle of 1980s, a so-called pseudo-neo-classicism is popularly defused in the city.  Contemporary  Shanghai architecture is threatened by the copy of superficial Disneyland and cartoon style. 


How to keep the identity of the city in the city renewal?  

Xin Tian Di

The Xin Tian Di plan offers a new approach for the urban renewal, to create a compact and workable district center, which is located between Shanghai's ancient walled city and its dynamic downtown.  The idea of the project is intended to bridge the old and the new.  It is a development that will ultimately accommodate 1.6 million square meters of retail, housing, office, and hotels.  The main goals were to create a sense of place and to sensitively integrate the new development into the city's existing fabric.  The district's various uses are brought together around a central open space that features a 3.7-hectare manmade lake.  As one of the approaches for the renewal of the old Lilong housing, it has the methodological value, but it can not be the ideal model for the renewal of historical residential areas in Shanghai. 

F5         F6 The layout has arbitrarily changed the urban fabric and cut down the context.  The artificial lake was dug up from a land of an old residential district.  Just a very small part of the housing is preserved and the original function has been transformed to a commercial area.  The surrounding old housings will be soon replaced by high-rise and luxury buildings.  The Xin Tian Di Project has generated a discussion on the general worry about the rapid destroy of the old urban fabric in Shanghai.



Jin Mao tower

Jin Mao tower is placed in Pudong, Lujiazui CBD,and together with The Oriental Pearl Tower it creates the main part of Shanghai's skyline, it is the tallest building in China, the third tallest one in the world. The 420.5-meter Jin Mao Tower, covering a site area of 24,000 m˛ , includes an 88-floor tower, a 6-floor podium and a 3-floor underground with a combined floor space of 290,000 m˛. It provides such functions as office, hotel, catering, sightseeing, convention and exhibition, entertainment and shopping.

The Skywalk on the 88th floor is the largest and highest observation deck in China. It is 340.1m above the ground and has a floor space of 1,520m˛. Travelling at a speed of 9.1m/s, two express lifts take visitors to the Skywalk within 45 seconds. Here you will never fail to marvel at the charm and magnificance of rosy dawn and sunset, the blue sky and myriad of clouds. You are also inspired with the overwhelming Shanghai skyline. Looking down inside the building, you can see the hotel atrium of Grand Hyatt Shanghai. The 152-meter atrium, arising from the 56th floor, is surrounded by 28 annular corridors to create a 'Time and Space Tunnel'.

 F7          F8

The Form of the tower follows pagoda, a traditional Chinese architecture, and the building combined modern science and technology with ancient Chinese architectural style, created a new “Hai Pai” (Shanghai Style) skyscraper, now it becomes a representative works to the new classic architecture, and set an example to create an identity of Shanghai.


Suzhou Creek

A transformation work for the waterfront of Suzhou Creek is now put into operation within 17 kilometers long water channel. Suzhou Creek once was a river for transportation use. Along by the creek, there were a lots of factories, warehouse, wharves and shanty town. The creek was strongly polluted 10 years ago. As the city is transformed from an industrial city to a post-industrial city, the local government decided to move the factories out of downtown and to purify the creek. One remarkable way to renew the space is the artists from all over the country come here, they change the functions of the buildings to art studios, art gallery, design center, bar, tea house, but preserve the historical buildings original style, and keep the old urban fabric in Shanghai. Another design from my students is to creat a new landscape of the city. The place is former wharf of coal along by the creek and now s discarded. The idea of the design is put the public space to the underground and plant the tree, build a falling water in order to creat an ecological urban space. This is the another way how to keep the identity in the city renewal.


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In the world, no one city like Shanghai changed so much in such a short period. For the future development, Shanghai's architects and urban planner have already realized the critical situation of urban space, and put more attention to it.  The key point of the urban space is to create an identity of Shanghai.



F1   map of Shanghai

F2  Highway system of Shanghai

F3  Tea house in Yuyuan Garden

F4  The bund

F5,F6 Xin Tian Di

F7  Jin Mao Tower

F8  Pagoda

F9  Project for Suzhou Creek

F10 warehouse along by the Creek