Life-cycle of a Shanghai French Concession neighborhood in one simple photo.

Sunday afternoon I visited a friend’s new apartment off Wulumqi Road in the heart of Shanghai’s rapidly disappearing French Concession. It’s been that way over the last few years: the old neighborhoods are being demolished, the old drafty tenements giving way to sealed up high-rises. You see it at street level all of the time, and a few photographers have made veritable careers out of documenting the evolution. But it’s rare that you get to see it presented from above (rare for me, at least). So I was surprised to see the century-long transformation played out below my friend’s new window.

The handful of still-standing houses in the middle of the mostly empty lot at the center of the image are occupied by squatters (visible from above). To the right are tenements of the sort that once occupied the lot. And in the rear are the sorts of buildings that will occupy the lot whenever – and however – the developer with rights to it gets around to building.

[UPDATE: From the excellent comment left by R, below: “A bit of history. this lot has been open for more than 5 years now, and was the site of where an overanxious developer tried to use force to remove people. If I remember correctly deaths were involved, but that may have been a different site down Changle near Agave.

Anyway, the squatters are actually 7 residents who have endured life without water, electricity, or gas. Quite an accomplishment, and when we were speaking to one of the landlords at the Summit, it was clear that this was a process that was no where near being resolved …”

Shanghai Scrap plans to return to the area in the next few days for follow-up …]

[A Note from the Staff: Long-time readers, and especially subscribers to the RSS feed, are aware that I’ve been on hiatus for the last five weeks. I’m back, both here and on twitter, and looking forward to re-engaging. And I think I’ll have more to say about re-engaging, after dis-engaging (from blogs and twitter) in a few days. I’ll also be blogging scrap, e-waste, baseball, my barber – and Expo. On the latter subject, allow me, for the moment, to send interested readers over to “Shanghai Shangri-La?” – Virginia Postrel’s excellent  essay on why Americans just don’t engage with World’s Fairs, anymore (a couple of additional Postrel thoughts on Expos, here). It’s terrific.]

7 thoughts on “Life-cycle of a Shanghai French Concession neighborhood in one simple photo.

  1. Adam.

    Welcome back.

    funny thing is that I probably could have taken a picture of you. I was viewing apartments at the Summit (complex north of the above area) and took some pictures myself.

    A bit of history. this lot has been open for more than 5 years now, and was the site of where an overanxious developer tried to use force to remove people. If I remember correctly deaths were involved, but that may have been a different site down Changle near Agave.

    Anyway, the squatters are actually 7 residents who have endured life without water, electricity, or gas. Quite an accomplishment, and when we were speaking to one of the landlords at the Summit, it was clear that this was a process that was no where near being resolved…

    … anyway, look forward to more posts, and if you have some time, you should go back to the site at night where the area turns into a scrap swap-meet. mainly Styrofoam and cardboard, but on a good night you get 30 ppl involved.

    R

  2. Hooray! The Scrap is back! In addition to Expo and scrap I hope you’ll write more about your Chinese fishing adventures.

  3. It reminds me of a view of an urban park, a reserved greenspace surrounded on all sides by the city. It isn’t, but that’s what it looks like.

  4. Been checking daily here in Clearwater, FL to see if maybe you’d come back early. Glad I can get my daily Shanghai Scrap fix again.

  5. Adam,

    My friend Katya managed to sneak in for a quick look and secured some excellent shots. The space is tightly guarded (and sealed off), I tried scaling it once to no avail.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/zinka/4782028286/in/photostream/

    I’ve viewed it from The Summit before, and have heard that the eviction process has been ongoing for several years. I heard stories ranging from the developer ran out of funds, to a fire had broken out resulting in deaths and the eviction process was stalled. (a story here: http://sh.focus.cn/msgview/1776/44115255.html)

    There is an extensive discussion here in Chinese recommended by a Flickr friend. http://www.longdang.com/bbs/viewthread.php?tid=19883&highlight=%C2%F3%E7%F7%C0%EF

  6. RE Postrel – I’m confused – ‘On a positive note, it features great, improvised performances by bilingual U.S. college students, who do things like teach the Chinese crowd to shout, “YOU…ARE…AWESOME.”‘
    Is this irony or can that ever really be considered a positive thing?

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