Mr Turnbull's view of Shanghai through the singular lens of aesthetics belies the more potent reality of Shanghai as an urban phenomenon fraught with ironies and messy endings. The propensity to single out individual buildings for subjective analysis only perpetuates the object-fascination which is a misrepresentation of architecture's place in the world.
The preservation debate makes such issues readily accessible, for it is here where Shanghai can be seen to be managing its balance of cultural values and modernization. The patchiness of the results reflects the complexity of the situation which cannot be accounted for with such glib references to tourist dollars or 'historic charm'.
That said, Xintiandi was not the 'brainchild' of a single man, but a negotiated process involving, most notably, SOM, an open-minded Hong Kong developer, and architect Ben Woods who is actually based in the States. The shikumen it reconstructed is a dying breed in a city which is destroying all but some high quality stock in central areas. And the Chinese City reported as being 'virtually intact' was last year already being replanned, subdivided and schemed with thirty-storey housing complexes.
Shanghai really deserves better treatment than this.
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|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Article Type:||Letter to the Editor|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2005|
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