Cities of the Future

On China Beat, Anna Greenspan reviews an exhibit at New York’s Skyscraper Museum about Shanghai:

The most fascinating aspect of the current exhibit on Shanghai, however, is the show’s framing thesis. China Prophecy: Shanghai is the final show in the three-part exhibition entitled ‘Future City: 20/21,’ which began with the show ‘New York Modern,’ and also included an exhibit and symposium on ‘Vertical Cities: Hong Kong.’

Presented in this way, ‘China Prophecy’ invites viewers to compare the near future of Shanghai with the past futurism of New York. This collision of time and space is suggested right at the start of the exhibition through twin blow-ups of Google maps, which illustrate the uncanny mirroring of Lujiazui and lower Manhattan, with their almost identical waterfronts, clusters of skyscrapers, and intense urban density.

As a city of skyscrapers, Shanghai has echoed Manhattan from the start. The Park Hotel, the city’s tallest tower until 1983, was built only after Shanghai’s great architect Laszlo Hudec returned from America. Hudec’s design for the Park Hotel was based on his sketches of Raymond Hood’s Radiator Building, which is located on West 40th Street, Manhattan.

The museum has an excellent website which includes a virtual walkthrough of the exhibit.


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