Go West Project – How the City Moved to Mr Sun

“A City must never be confused with the words that describe it. And yet between the one and the other there is a connection.” Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

First and utmost, if you look at it closely, you can see me in this picture. Yay. If you find me within 3 seconds, drop me an email and you’ll be entitled to get a free drink. * Conditions and terms apply.

There are couple of things why I like going to book launches and other events at Glamour. Not only do I get a huge discount with my Student ID (Jeez, I am officially turning Chinese – talking about prices comes first and ooh, last week I caught myself slurping my Spicy Beef Noodles!), the discussions and invited guests are genuinely interesting while you can just be to enjoy Glamour’s atmosphere and the magnifique view onto the Bund bend.

Go West Project presented its new book a few weeks ago. I went, I listened, I asked and did enjoy the panorama in the meantime. The examples and pictures they choose were mainly of Wuhan that was almost surreal, having returned from there just a few days before.

Briefly, what they try to showcase is that, historically and unlike other countries, urbanization processes upside down in China. Instead of a development sprawling and finally reaching the more loosely inhabited farmlands and villagers’ houses, the uber-rapid mega-constructions first surround them then eat them up for breakfast. Owners get government compensation for their ruthlessly demolished houses or get a free spot in one of the high-rise beehives, shifting their lifestyle from rice fields to a city life.

In this sort of real version of plants versus zombies, the former farmers get to try different methods to stick to some of their old habits (building an orchard on a rooftop) or, while having zero chance to obtain a city residence permit, they specialize in temporary tent canteens and make money by serving the blue-collar workers while the new skyscraper is born. Some of these building sites are small, self-sustaining worlds on their own, with a hospital, a cinema and so on. Clever, no?

I also loved when they explained how Wuhan decided to build the replica of London’s Docklands. When the city big wigs realized they have the potential to develop this city to a 10 million metropolis, they travelled far and wide to see what looks good on a river bank. Having disliked Shanghai’s Bund and other skylines, their final vote struck down on the Canary Wharf and its surroundings. And there you go, Wuhan has its Docklands, English style, sitting elegantly by the River Yangtse.

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