When I initially wrote my ‘proposal’ for my program’s Fudan exchange, I prominently included Nanjing as a potential observational site. This was chiefly because of my familiarity with the city, the area and a somewhat layman’s understanding of what the location was trying to achieve. My goals for revisiting included a deeper exploration of some of the cities green and public spaces, including some peri-public areas such as the inner-city campuses of Nanjing University and Nanjing Normal University. I was also very curious to take in the 8 months of changes in a city where a set of row houses exists one evening and a fully functional park with juvenile trees exists the next morning. Also, would I view the space and city differently now that I have a year of ‘formal’ academic urban planning studies under my belt? One thing I’ve learned so far is that after just a few classes of planning, one never is really able to view the city the same way again. Just ask my friends here…I’m sure some of them were quite close to slapping me after my many casual and bizarre musings regarding a particular ‘space’, the ‘life’ of some random, nameless street or the siting of some building or the location of some urban function. It seems once it gets in ones blood it never really gets out.
Nevertheless, despite my ‘official’ reasons for making a sojourn back to NJ, there was always going to be a strong element of “oh bloody hell Bryan, just party like it is 2004 again”. Make use of that time because you sure are not getting out that much in Shanghai.
So I did and managed to blend a (despite slightly over budget) successful trip. As a testament to my honest intention, my Karma built up and I was awarded with an unexpected Easter Egg, although in retrospect I could not believe that I had for some reason, managed to let it slip past me for four whole years.
On Monday night, my friend mentioned that she had visited an urban planning exhibition in Nanjing….and my jaw instantly dropped. “There is a planning exhibition…here….in Nanjing? And I didn’t know about it?” Does it have the models?”
It did….and it was only about a block away from where I had been living for four years. I had walked past this building countless times and had no idea that there was even an exhibition inside.
I was leaving the next afternoon and managed to squeeze a super quick visit in before I took the train back to Shanghai.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Canadian cities really need to get in on this whole giant model thing and be proud of what they are trying to do with their cities. Like I’ve said before, nothing quite inspires like a giant old-school model.
The Nanjing Exhibition is much better done that Shanghai’s. While the obvious propaganda is there, it is not nearly as in ones face as it is in Shanghai. Nanjing offered a far more process driven demonstration with far clearer goals and a strong vision centered around 10 major projects, largely transport in nature. This is opposition to Shanghai’s “Expo 2010” oriented Exhibition.
The Nanjing Exhibition walks the visitor through a well organized and clear (with English) dynastic history of Nanjing, followed by a stellar demonstration of the ten major legacy projects (the metro, Chang Jiang bridge expansion, Chang Jiang tunnel, city highway tunnel system to name a few). The Exhibition then carefully moves through each of Nanjing’s major districts (including my district, Gulou, yay!).
A few of my lingering Nanjing questions cleared up.
More on Nanjing later.